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November 13, 2013

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Home » Metro » Environment

Slow pollution warnings to change

SHANGHAI’S environmental watchdog is working on adjustments to the city air quality warning system, after it took 27 hours to report heavy pollution last week.

The Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau said changes may include a more finely graded pollution gauge and a lower threshold.

And in another initiative, the bureau says it will bypass a committee to inform construction projects when pollution crosses a threshold, ensuring they halt work quicker.

This comes after Shanghai gave a “heavy pollution” warning at 7am on Friday, an alert that lasted 10 hours.

However, the city had been suffering heavy air pollution since Thursday morning, leading to criticism that the system is too slow to react.

Currently, a heavy pollution warning is issued when the Air Quality Index reaches 200 for 12 consecutive hours, the density for fine PM2.5 particles reaches 150 micrograms per cubic meter and the situation shows no sign of improving in the coming 24 hours.

Although Shanghai’s AQI surpassed 200 at 4am on Thursday, no warnings were issued that day. The authorities said that according to weather department predictions, winds were expected to ease pollution within 24 hours.

But air quality remained at a heavily polluted level into Friday morning, and the warning was finally issued at 7am — 27 hours after the heavy pollution threshold was crossed.

The heavy pollution warning was lifted at 5pm.

Critics say this system has an unacceptable time lag.

“Some of the standards in the current warning system are not reasonable,” said Zhang Youde, director of public security center of Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

“The warning is issued only when the Air Quality Index surpasses 200 for 12 hours. If the situation is already bad, why wait for 12 hours?”

The bureau said the procedure strictly followed standards, but conceded that there was room for improvement.

According to Zhou Jun, deputy director of the bureau’s pollution control division, they are working on a better system.

This may include more levels and a lower primary level to make for more precise and faster warnings.

Lowering the primary level would also benefit children, seniors and other groups most sensitive to air pollution.

And the bureau said warnings to construction sites to stop work when pollution exceeded thresholds would be posted direct to a management platform and distributed to the city’s 8,000 construction sites.

Previously, the bureau issued warnings to the Shanghai construction committee, which was responsible of posting the warning.

The change will shorten the procedure by 15 minutes.



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