Beijing shrouded in thick haze of sand and smog

Thick haze blanketing Beijing on Sunday. It is caused by a combination of existing smog in the city and sand blown in from the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia.
Thick haze blanketing Beijing on Sunday. It is caused by a combination of existing smog in the city and sand blown in from the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • Residents in Beijing wore face masks yesterday to protect themselves from the thick, brown haze that had shrouded the capital city and reduced visibility on the streets.

The haze was caused by a combination of existing smog in the city and sand blown in from the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia. This usually happens in Beijing during spring, when winds are particularly strong.

Readings for PM2.5, the small particles considered most harmful to health, reached 248 micrograms per cubic metre at 10am yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported. The authorities classify PM2.5 levels that are over 200 as heavily polluted.

The municipal environmental authorities had issued a warning about the sand on Sunday. It added that the situation would improve with stronger winds that would blow the pollutants towards the East China Sea, the Post reported.

The bad air in Beijing yesterday came amid reports that more than 3,100 government officials in China have been held to account for the poor implementation of pollution control measures.

The problem was uncovered in all seven provincial regions included in the latest round of environmental inspections by the central authorities, China Daily reported.

  • 248 mcg per m3

    Readings for PM2.5 in Beijing at 10am yesterday

Inspectors sent by the State Council, China's Cabinet, have conducted month-long reviews in Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing municipalities, and in Gansu, Guangdong, Hubei and Shaanxi provinces since late November. The performance audits exposed more than 15,000 violations, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

All seven of the latest inspection reports said that governments have not focused enough attention on the environment - a failure that has resulted in worsening air quality and water pollution in some areas, China Daily reported.

Inspectors also found a lack of assessment in Beijing, saying that seven districts had failed to meet targets for 2014 and that the municipality did not release information or punish the officials responsible.

"Some leading officials admitted that pledges to prioritise environmental protection had been mere lip service," the inspection report for Hubei province said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Beijing shrouded in thick haze of sand and smog'. Print Edition | Subscribe