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Beijing to ban half of private cars on high-pollution days

Updated: 2013-10-23 00:42
By ZHENG XIN ( China Daily)

Beijing will ban half of its private cars and 80 percent of public vehicles from the roads if a red alert is issued on days of persistent pollution, the capital's information office said on Tuesday.

Private vehicles will be barred from using the roads, based on odd and even license plate numbers, when pollution is predicted to linger in the city for three or more days.

Public transport, including buses and subway trains, will extend service time by 30 minutes and increase the number of backup vehicles and trains on days of persistent pollution to meet the increased demand.

"Halving the number of private cars on the roads will greatly help to reduce pollution over a short period," Fang Li, spokesman for the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The authorities have blamed vehicle emissions for being a major source of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter that can enter the respiratory system.

The emergency plan, based on experience in foreign countries, has a warning system comprising blue, yellow, orange and red alerts. It will take effect whenever the air quality index is predicted to be above 300 for three consecutive days, the information office said.

All freight vehicles and those transporting material for construction sites will be barred from the roads when the red alert is issued, while more watering carts and sprinkler trucks will take to the roads.

However, vehicles for police use, emergency work, fire control, rescue work, long-distance transport, postal services, tourist services, school transport, landscape maintenance and public transport will not be barred, the authorities said.

Other measures, including a ban on outdoor barbecues and fireworks, are included in the emergency plan.

Kindergartens and middle school classes will be halted on days of high pollution to protect students' health.

The government will give 24 hours' notice of the emergency measures, Fang said.

The city's environmental protection and meteorological bureaus will jointly predict the air quality based on weather conditions and emission levels.

"We need to come up with accurate predictions, as the alerts are closely related to public life," Fang said. "We are confident the pollution predictions will be as accurate as the weather forecast."

Responding to the smog that enveloped the northeast of the country on Monday, leading to suspension of school classes and disrupting flights, Fang said it was partly related to the heating in buildings and adverse meteorological conditions that make it difficult for pollutants to disperse.

"However, the key still lies in the reduction of emissions in the long term," he said.