The Straits Times
Published on Jan 17, 2013

Beijing's toxic smog was years in the making, had many sources


BEIJING (REUTERS) - Chinese leaders dazzled the world by clearing the skies as if by edict before the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. Fast forward to January 2013, and the government seems powerless against those same skies, tarnished by an opaque, toxic cloud that has smothered the city for nearly a week.

The number-two leader in the country's Communist Party hierarchy, Mr Li Keqiang, appealed this week for Beijing's 20 million residents to show patience during what he said would be a "long-term" clean-up.

Lower-level officials took emergency steps to cut traffic and factory emissions to clear the worst outbreak of smog on record, but the moves are likely to bring only temporary relief from a chronic problem that has been years in the making.

Why have conditions deteriorated so drastically?