Beijing issued its first major smog alert of the winter for the capital, triggering stringent measures to curb output of heavy industry as plunging temperatures spurred heating demand.
The orange alert issued, the second highest on China’s four-level system, comes after Beijing was reported to have made big improvements in air quality last year as industrial activity shifted away from the capital.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection warned in a statement that heavy air pollution will envelope Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and the surrounding area from Friday until January 17.
According to the forecast, southern areas of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, southern Shanxi, western Shandong, northern Hebei will suffer from toxic air from January 13 to January 15. On January 15, level of air pollution is expected to surge to the maximum, it said.
Under an orange alert, factories that make furniture, cement and other heavy industry must limit output by between 30 and 50%. A list of companies in the capital affected contains more than 700 enterprises.
The capital has been largely spared the notoriously bad air that typically blankets the north during the colder winter months when people crank up the heat in their homes in part to the government’s stringent anti-smog measures, including curbing factory output and banning coal burning in homes.
But this alert comes a month after the government was forced to reverse its ban on coal for heating as gas shortages left people freezing and after a prolonged bout of freezing weather across the north.