Emergency Response to High Levels of Air Pollution in China May Indicate Shift in Official Policy

A junk sails past the city's skyline shrouded in a dense blanket of toxic smog in Hong Kong on April 15, 2013. The air pollution index reached the 'severe' level for the third time in 2013 with high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide present. 
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Clare Foran
Oct. 25, 2013, 9:38 a.m.

The New York Times re­ports that au­thor­it­ies are re­spond­ing swiftly to haz­ard­ous levels of air pol­lu­tion in Har­bin, a city in China’s north­east—a move that may in­dic­ate a shift in of­fi­cial policy in fa­vor of try­ing to mit­ig­ate the ef­fects of air­borne pol­lut­ants rather than simply cov­er­ing up or ig­nor­ing the prob­lem.

Earli­er this week, of­fi­cials closed schools and can­celed pub­lic trans­port­a­tion and air­port traffic in an at­tempt to keep res­id­ents out­side and out of danger after the city was coated in a heavy lay­er of smog.

The news fol­lows last month’s an­nounce­ment that the Chinese State Coun­cil had draf­ted a plan to dra­mat­ic­ally lower air pol­lu­tion in the coun­try.

En­vir­on­ment­al ad­voc­ates were cheered by the re­sponse, but say there is still much more work to be done to im­prove air qual­ity.

“I give cred­it to the loc­al gov­ern­ment for tak­ing these meas­ures,” Ma Jun, an en­vir­on­ment­al act­iv­ist, told The New York Times. “Hav­ing said that, I think it’s not enough. I think people won’t be sat­is­fied with just know­ing which day to put on face masks or not go to school or keep their chil­dren in­doors. They really want blue-sky days.”


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