Weather in capital region won't be conducive to dispersal, it says
The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei province region is expected to see moderate to heavy air pollution from Thursday to Sunday because of unfavorable weather conditions, according to a forecast released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Wednesday.
The hourly average concentration of PM2.5 is expected to climb to 200 micrograms per cubic meter, it said.
According to the forecast, this round of pollution will influence both the capital region and neighboring areas, including Shanxi and Henan provinces, with the central places affected most.
Beijing and several cities in Hebei province, including Shijiazhuang, Baoding, Tangshan and Langfang, will experience moderate to heavy air pollution.
Hebei, which surrounds Beijing and usually has frequent smog during winter, issued an orange alert－the second-highest level－for air pollution on Wednesday.
Smog is expected to ease gradually starting Sunday night, when cold air arrives in the region.
PM2.5, hazardous fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns, has been a major index for measuring air pollution and is the primary pollutant this time.
To improve air quality, China set a target to reduce the average intensity of PM2.5 by about 3 percent year-on-year in the region and surrounding areas from October to March, according to an official plan released in September.
During the period, the number of days with heavy air pollution should be also reduced by about 3 percent year-on-year, the plan said.
Compared with last year's goal of reducing the average intensity of PM2.5 by 15 percent for the period, this year's target has eased up, a reporter said at a news conference held by the ministry on Wednesday.
Ministry spokesman Liu Youbin responded, "This is a misunderstanding about the plan, and the lower target doesn't mean we will reduce efforts to combat air pollution."
The mission is tough because the remaining space for reducing emissions has been narrowed after years of effort to improve the region's air quality, Liu said.
"Adjusting the structure of industry, energy resources, transportation and land use are difficult tasks in the process of controlling air pollution," Liu said, adding that change cannot happen overnight and the effect might not be seen immediately.
Weather conditions from December to February in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region will be more unfavorable for dispersing pollutants compared to the same period last year, Liu said.