By Li Qian and Cai Wenjun | 2013-1-24 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
Foreign tourists wear masks at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing yesterday as the capital city was once again shrouded in dense haze, exactly one week after heavily polluted air that lasted seven days was dispersed by a cold front. Authorities in Beijing announced yesterday that they will enact a harsher vehicle emission standard - equivalent to the Euro V - from next month to curb the worsening pollution in a city with a population of 20 million and at least 5.2 million passenger cars.
BEIJING will enforce an equivalent of Euro V standard on new cars next month as the government is hard-pressed to improve the worsening air quality.
Once the new standard comes into effect on February 1, it is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emission by 40 percent.
Beijing was choked by a hazardous smog from January 10 to 16 before a cold front brought some relief to the residents. However, the city's reading of PM2.5 - airborne particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter - rebounded to serious levels yesterday because of dense smog. The severe pollution has led to complaints that the city's air quality only depends on wind and rain.
While tightening the emission standard on new cars, the Beijing government also said that gasoline and diesel that meets the new standard will be available in local gas stations from May 31.
The new standard will apply to new cars that have yet to receive license plates, Xinhua news agency reported, citing Fang Li, vice director of the city's environment protection bureau. Vehicles currently in use will be exempted.
The sale and registration of diesel vehicles that do not meet the new standard will be halted, Fang said.
Sales of substandard gasoline cars are to be stopped as of March 1, Fang added.
The city also plans to offer more incentives to help eliminate old cars from the roads. The city has already dumped 377,000 old cars. It has a target to ease a further 180,000 this year, according to Fang.
Beijing has a permanent population of around 20 million and some 5.2 million vehicles, with the number of private cars still on the rise.
That number will reach 6 million by 2015, Li Kunsheng, director of the bureau's vehicles management department, said.
The Beijing weather bureau yesterday issued yellow alerts for both fog and smog, the third-highest level in China's four-tier weather warning system.
At 9am, PM2.5 readings at most of the downtown monitoring stations exceeded 300 micrograms per cubic meter, far exceeding the national limit of 75 micrograms, according to the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center.
By mid-afternoon, air quality indices at most of the monitoring stations ranged from 311 to 400, a serious level.
A thick cloud of airborne particles was spotted moving from the southeast into Beijing on Tuesday afternoon and covered the whole city yesterday morning.
A resident of south Beijing, Wu Xiao, told Xinhua that she had bought a special mask from abroad for her son.
Wu said the smog had sickened nearly her entire family. "My child has red eyes, my mother-in-law suffers from asthma and I also caught the 'Beijing cough,'" she said.