APEC: Preemptive Anti-Pollution Measures in Beijing
Despite being plagued for months by very high levels of air pollution, Beijing is preparing to host important foreign heads of states for the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit from the 7th to the 12th of November.
In order to fight smog for the duration of the summit, the municipality has issued a set of specific measures. These include alternating traffic starting from the 3rd of November, adding 400 buses to the public transport network, and the temporary cessation of construction works and heavily polluting industries. Ministries, institutes and social welfare organizations in Beijing will be on holidays for six days for the entire duration of the summit. Beijing residents are also encouraged to vacate the city during this time and travel agencies have been asked to lower their prices in order to support the trend.
Beijing will coordinate these measures with Tianjin and neighbouring cities in Hebei province in order to ensure higher efficiency in the fight against air pollution. According to Hebei’s government, 881 construction sites will be interrupted in the province and all activity deemed to be polluting, such as street barbecues or waste incineration, will be forbidden from the 3rd of November until the end of the summit. A limit on heating is also expected in Hebei, except in the case of “extreme temperatures”. As for heavily polluting factories, relocation plans from the city center to urban outskirts are to be accelerated ahead of APEC. In Hebei only, the relocation schemes target 123 factories, such as Shijiazhuang Iron and Steel, which on Friday October 24th started its transfer from the provincial capital’s city center (where it has been located since it was founded 57 years ago) to the mining district of Jingxing 70km away.
Although the APEC summit allows for the introduction of a comprehensive anti-pollution strategy, integrating Beijing and its surrounding urban centers, these drastic measures imply significant complications for industrial production and the daily lives of millions in the region. The actions have been heavily criticized online by empowered citizens who consider the measures both long overdue and insufficient to truly resolve larger issues of environmental degradation in Chinese urban areas.