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Cold front dispersing Beijing smog, more efforts urged


10:03, January 17, 2013

BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Beijingers on Wednesday saw their first sunshine in seven days, with a cold front dispersing the lingering smog in the city.

At of 4 p.m., some smog could still be seen as air quality indices (AQI) dropped to "Level III" or "light pollution," according to data released by the city's environmental monitoring center.

The smog will clear later on Wednesday, when wind is expected to blow through the city at a speed of around 30 km per hour.

Experts with the center said the average AQI on Wednesday will reach a "fairly good" level.

The central meteorological station lifted its smog alert at 10 a.m. in the country's central and eastern areas. As the cold front is affecting vast parts of China from north to south, the smog that has been staying in those regions is likely to disperse starting from Wednesday afternoon, according to the station.

Vice Premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday urged immediate action to address China's air pollution problem.

Li said human production, construction and consumption should not come at the cost of ecology and extensive production methods must be changed.

A report to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last November emphasized the importance of ecological progress and advocated the building of a "beautiful China" in the country's development plan.

With rapid urban expansion, economic development and an increase in the urban population, the consumption of coal is also increasing, resulting in more emissions. In winter, when coal-based public heating is turned on in north China, the situation becomes worse.

The AQIs were literally off the charts during the seven days leading up to Wednesday in many cities, exceeding the "maximum" level of 500.

"We should strengthen efforts to enforce environmental protection laws and remind people to protect themselves," said Li.

He also encouraged the public to join the government in efforts to curb air pollution.

Government authorities have launched traffic control measures and suspended factory production in recent days in order to reduce the smog.

In Beijing, construction was suspended at 28 construction sites and 54 businesses reduced their emissions by 30 percent amid the smoggy weather, with Beijing Hyundai Motor Company halting production on Sunday.

In Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong province, the local government on Tuesday cut the number of both government and private vehicles on the road in half according to their license plate numbers, allowing even-numbered license plate owners to drive on some days and odd-number drivers to drive on others. The measure is in effect until further notice.

In the city of Changchun in northeast China's Jilin province, 15 plants were required to take corrective measures to standardize their emission systems, while another 28 plants were required to limit or reduce emissions.

However, experts believe the measures will only provide temporary relief.

Zhang Weiguo, a professor at the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences, said the lingering smog has provided a perfect opportunity to challenge large- and medium-sized cities' emergency response systems.

"Judging from the measures taken, authorities have failed to prepare properly in terms of responding to a weather-related emergency," said Zhang.

Zhang urged government authorities to establish a scientific program aimed at creating a more effective response to air pollution.

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