From the ABC:
A thick blanket of smog covering much of northern China has led the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a crisis.
Beijing has recorded its sixth day in a row of hazardous pollution with residents being warned to wear masks or stay indoors as a precaution.
Instruments have measured pollution levels above 450 on an air quality index – nine times the safe level for human beings.
Skyscrapers in the Chinese capital are barely visible through the haze.
The smog is even threatening crops, local scientists say, with the lack of sunlight reportedly causing a drastic slowdown in plant photosynthesis.
The authorities raised the pollution alert to the second-highest “orange” danger level for the first time on Friday after drawing public ire for its ineffective response.
“Of course, on days where pollution levels reach or even exceed the scale we are very concerned and we have to see this as a crisis,” Bernhard Schwartlander, the WHO representative in China, said.
“There’s now clear evidence that, in the long term, high levels of air pollution can actually also cause … lung cancer.”
Authorities have introduced countless orders and policies and made innumerable vows to clean up the environment but the problem only seems to get worse.
The government has invested in projects and empowered courts to mete out stiff penalties but enforcement has been patchy at the local level, where authorities often depend on the taxes paid by the polluting industries.
Hebei, a major industrial region which surrounds Beijing, is home to some of the most polluted cities in China.
Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, routinely recorded “beyond index” measurements of particulate matter in early 2013.
The China Academy of Sciences identified the province as a major source of noxious smog that hung over Beijing a year ago.
The government said in an action plan for Hebei in September that it would ban new projects in certain industries, close outdated steel and cement facilities and slash coal use.
There’ll be no let up on the steel crackdown seemingly.