Beijing ‘environmental police’ to target heavy air polluters

As the latest wave of smog enveloped the Chinese capital, Beijing announced the formation of a new police unit to crack down on polluters.

About 50 officers will work with environmental, land and water authorities to combat pollution, illegal mining and illegal agriculture land use, Pei Xudong, head of the group, said in a statement Tuesday on the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau website.

The introduction of “environmental police,” along with coal-burning reductions and vehicle controls, are part of Beijing’s efforts to address recurrent air pollution that has been a persistent problem despite a three-year government campaign to control it. Air quality in the city failed to meet government standards on 46 percent of days last year, even as average pollutant concentrations fell, according to the bureau.

After a long stretch of polluted days at the start of the year, heavy smog returned to Beijing on Tuesday, with the city’s environmental bureau issuing a yellow alert, the third-highest on its four-tier warning scale, until Thursday. The city warned children and the elderly to stay indoors during the period of heavy air pollution.

Read More: Seven Sectors That May Gain as Smog Hits Beijing

The concentration of PM2.5 — small particles that pose the greatest risk to human health — rose to 264 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing as of noon local time, according to a pollution monitor at the U.S. Embassy. The reading is more than 10 times the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum day-long exposure limit of 25.

Public security sub-bureaus in each district will also set up their own teams to help investigate environmental violations, according to the website statement.

In other measures, Beijing will ban some high-emission vehicles from its urban areas starting Wednesday, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing authorities.

The city will also cut coal use by 30 percent to 7 million metric tons this year from a year earlier, Beijing News reported Jan. 14, citing Beijing environmental Protection Bureau head Fang Li.

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