'Joint effort' urged to clear the air

Updated: 2013-01-30 04:12

By Wu Wencong and Wang Xiaodong (China Daily)

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Vehicle emissions have replaced industrial pollution as the biggest contributor to airborne pollution in major Chinese cities, according to research by Zhuang Guoshun, a professor at Fudan University's Atmospheric Chemistry Research Center.

Wu Xiaoqing, vice-minister of the Environmental Protection Ministry, has also emphasized the growing importance of pollution from vehicles.

But in a recent online survey conducted by China Auto Market Magazine, more than 60 percent of the 4,000 participants did not agree with the policy to charge congestion fees.

"For car owners who still drive into the city center on heavily polluted days, a congestion fee or pollution fee should be charged," said Chai Fahe, deputy head of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

Chai said the current sources of air pollution, especially in cities like Beijing, are closely related to the activities of the general public.

Driving less and reducing central heating are two areas highlighted by Chai.

He said Beijing, in particular, has huge energy-saving potential. Reducing indoor temperatures, even by a fraction, will make a huge difference.

"Everyone wants the temperature to be comfortable so they can wear shirts at home, but it is a huge waste of energy."

Zhou Rong, project manager on climate and energy studies at Greenpeace, an environmental NGO, argues that the main cause of air pollution lies elsewhere.

"I agree that people should not drive and then complain about the bad air, but the major problem is still in the structure of the economy and energy consumption, which cannot be changed by ordinary people," she said.

Zhou said raising public awareness to lead a low-carbon life may guarantee a promising future, but it won't solve matters now.

The hazy weather will soon go, according to Ma Xuekuan, chief weather forecaster of National Meteorological Center.

"Cold air will bring snow and rain to these areas from Thursday night, which will disperse the haze quickly," he said. "But until then, hazy weather will continue and even deteriorate in some places.''

Road transport was also affected on Monday, the third day of the 40-day peak travel season. A number of expressways were closed temporarily in eight provinces and municipalities, according to Ministry of Transport on Tuesday.

Sixty flights at Beijing Capital International Airport had been cancelled by Tuesday evening, including 14 international flights, as visibility was reduced to less than 200 meters.

Wang Qian, Xin Dingding and Jiang Xueqing contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at wuwencong@chinadaily.com.cn

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