Beijing: Over 30 million residents of Beijing faced thick smog for the third straight day as the Chinese Capital`s air pollution reached dangerous levels on Sunday, forcing people to wear masks and avoid outdoor physical activities.
The municipal meteorological station issued the city`s first orange fog warning today due to decreased visibility caused by the heavy smog and said the air pollution is expected to engulf here until Wednesday, when wind will arrive to blow the smog away.
Monitoring data which was released today showed that air quality indexes in most regions of capital had hit 500, the indexes` highest level.
The municipal environmental monitoring centre said readings for PM 2.5 or airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, had reached more than 700 micrograms per square meter at several monitoring stations in Beijing, reaching as high as 993 yesterday evening.
"These figures represent extremely bad pollution. Pollutants have gradually accumulated over the course of recent windless days, making the air quality even worse," said Zhu Tong, a professor from the college of environmental sciences and engineering at Peking University told state-run Xinhua news agency.
Beijing which reeled under the worst winter in 20 years, is witnessing the smog which was the result of heavy industrial and traffic pollution.
The air pollution levels also go up in Beijing in winter as the Capital operates scores of coal fired heating plants to heat homes in the neighbourhoods.
"Beijing implemented its emergency response plan for hazardous pollution for the first time on Sunday," said Yu Jianhua, director of the air quality department under the municipal environmental protection bureau.
The plan, issued last year, includes multiple measures to combat and respond to hazardous levels of air pollution like construction sites to limit construction activity that creates large amounts of dust, as well as asks industrial enterprises to reduce emissions, during hazardous pollution days.
The plan also requires municipal traffic authorities to limit government vehicle usage during smoggy days, with the goal of reducing such usage by 30 per cent compared to normal days.
It also calls for education authorities to instruct schools to limit or completely stop outdoor activity during periods of heavy air pollution.
Meanwhile, east and central China were enveloped in fog resulting in highway closures and flight delays in several provinces.
In Shandong province, more than 20 highways were closed, as the fog reduced visibility in some areas to less than 50 meters, the provincial meteorological center said.