Analysts concern ban’s duration could spark criticism
Beijing may implement a strict odd-even license plate scheme on alternate days as winter approaches, a move analysts say will have a significant effect on the capital's air quality.
According to Beijing's new air pollution contingency plan, released in March, measures will be taken if severe air pollution is detected for over 72 hours.
These include cutting an additional 30 percent in vehicular traffic by adopting the odd-even license plate scheme, halting all construction work and shutting down factories.
If implemented, it will be the first time for Beijing to restrict traffic by the odd-even license plate scheme for pollution-related purposes.
Analysts, however, said they're concerned about the traffic ban's duration, as a prolonged restriction would spark complaints, since the capital suffered from smog for roughly half of last year's winter season.
"There are many measures that can be taken, but controlling the number of vehicles on the road and tackling pollution in the countryside may prove to be difficult as they involve the general public," Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Thursday.
"The complaints would be especially grave if traffic is restricted but the smog remains," Ma said.
Air pollution in Beijing during the National Day holiday, from October 1 to Wednesday, rose to severe levels despite the light traffic.
The environmental protection authorities in the capital attributed the rise in PM2.5 particles to the burning of straws from harvests in neighboring provinces.
"The practice of straw burning has been prevalent in nearby Hebei Province for many years. Farmers used to burn straws for heat, but they currently burn straws simply because there are no better or cheaper ways to get rid of the straws after they harvest corn or wheat," Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Niu said farmers often lack the technology to convert straws into fuel, and also lack the manpower, thanks to the decades-long migrant worker phenomenon, to collect the huge volume of straws.
"The solution to China's pollution problems is developing new technology," Niu said.
Ma added that straw burning is as much a social problem as it is an environmental one.
"Farmers are a socially disadvantaged group who feel they don't have much to lose. You simply can't tell them to stop burning straws without a better plan," Ma said.
Newspaper headline: Capital plans odd-even scheme in winter