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Beijing Issues First "Red Alert" due to Air Pollution

The Beijing Emergency Management office issued its first ‘’red alert’’ on the city as air pollution reached hazardous levels . This indicates that pollution currently stands at the most serious level in a four-tiered alert system.

The categorisation of this system is not directly linked to Air Quality Index(AQI) used by government agencies worldwide . The AQI is calculated with several sets of air pollution data including concentration of pollutant in the air.

The ‘’red alert’’ means that additional measures will be carried out in the Chinese capital . This includes closure of schools and construction sites. Authorities will also limit the number of cars on the road.

The information was disseminated via the Beijing government’s official website , various national news channels like China Xinhua News and public radio announcements. It was also spread through social media platforms including @BeijingAir on twitter and was published in the Ministry of Environmental Protection website.

Their communication methods are slightly different to Singapore in which crisis communication is clear and effective over a much smaller area.

As Singapore was hit by the haze a couple of months back, the Pollutant Standards Index is readily published in all public media platforms. In addition , National Environmental Agency (NEA) has a mobile app to update live PSI and what the values mean.

Chinese locals took to social media to discuss the government’s decision not to issue a red alert despite pollution indices reaching ‘’hazardous’’ levels last week. On Wednesday, its value surpassed an AQI of 300 entering the hazardous range.

Since the implementation of this emergency response system in 2013, air pollution has never reached red alert.

The stagnant winds in the city has exacerbated the situation . Air pollution monitors showed areas of Beijing had more than 256 micrograms per cubic metre of poisonous particles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) deems anything over 25 micrograms to be ‘’unsafe’.

"It is a sharp warning to us that we may have too much development at the price of environment and it is time for us to seriously deal with air pollution,'' stated Beijing worker Fan Jinglong.

The main cause for smog in Beijing is the carbon emissions from factories, construction sites and vehicles. China is currently the world’s largest contributor to carbon emission and this poses a serious concern to public health.

Younger kids and those with respiratory illnesses are most heavily affected. According to recent report, air pollution has accounts for 1.4 million premature deaths in China annually.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris that is ongoing, raised China’s carbon emission levels as a major contributor to global warming. Negotiators have produced draft text of an agreement for foreign ministers to finalise next week.

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