Moving in the right direction

China to begin providing smog forecasts for major cities

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The Ministry of Environmental Protection said it is working on a system that will deliver air pollution forecasts for China’s major cities. The system, to be ready by October 31, will provide the public with smog levels for the approaching few hours as well as for the coming few days, environmental vice minister Wu Xiaoqing was cited as saying in a Caixin report, although it’s unclear how effective the forecasts will be.

The cities that will provide the forecasts, which will appear on the ministry’s website, are provincial capitals, other big cities in the east and China’s four municipalities, namely Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing.

Wu did not say when the forecasts will be available to the public.

An air quality monitoring network that the government started building in 2012 will provide data for the forecasts. The environmental ministry said at the end of last year that the monitoring network is in place.

That data gathering system comprises 552 monitoring sites in 117 cities.

China is trying to tackle the country’s chronically bad air pollution with increasing desperation as Beijing and Zhangjiakou, a couple of the nation’s smoggiest offenders, are competing against Kazakhstan’s Almaty to jointly host the 2022 Winter Olympics.The ministry set a deadline of November 30 for regulators to compile a list pinpointing major pollutants (which for once does not include street barbecue) in 13 of China’s major cities, including Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin.

Beijing has also announced an “emergency plan” that will be launched should heavy smog persist in the capital for three days, which includes restricting the number of cars on the road based on their license plates.