Heavy smog envelopes Beijing and creates more problems for the city as February 4 draws closer

Air quality levels in Beijing reached unhealthy levels on Sunday and it might get worse before it gets better

A student stands on a sports field shrouded in smog on a polluted day in Beijing, China March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
A student stands on a sports field shrouded in smog on a polluted day in Beijing, China March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

As Beijing attempts to keep Omicron and COVID-19 out of the city with tight restrictions on who can go where with their “closed –loop system”, the city faces another challenge with the opening of the Winter Games less than two weeks away.

Smog.

Beijing’s air quality on Sunday registered a “very unhealthy” level making outdoor exercise inadvisable, as heavy smog blanketed the capital and made visibility limited.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the seasonal weather in Beijing is creating “extremely unfavorable conditions” but they have promised to have the air quality fixed before the Opening Ceremonies on February 4. Local governments have said they will take “necessary action” to improve the air quality.

Another potential problem in fixing the air quality ahead of the Winter Games is Lunar New Year’s Eve on January 31 when fireworks will certainly add more smoke to the already unhealthy air.

Beijing has instituted a ban on unauthorized fireworks in the city in recent years to reduce air pollution, but with only moderate success.

A paramilitary police officer stands guard on Tiananmen Square shrouded in smog, before the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People on a polluted day in Beijing, China March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins?
A paramilitary police officer stands guard on Tiananmen Square shrouded in smog, before the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People on a polluted day in Beijing, China March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins?

Ahead of the Olympics, that ban has been expanded to cover not the just the city proper, but neighboring suburbs as well.

The police have also cracked down more on illegal fireworks, confiscating over 8,000 boxes of firecrackers and levying fines to over 100 citizens. They have also offered cash rewards of up to 20,000 yuan ($3,000 USD) for any tips about illegal fireworks.

There are other options for Beijing to improve their air quality in a short amount of time. They could resort to cloud-seeding technology, similar to what was done in 2008, to increase rainfall and “rinse away” the pollution, or they can further reduce output from steel mills and coal power plants.