China: Beijing forms special police team to combat smog
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China: Beijing forms special police team to combat smog

OFFICIALS in Beijing are creating a new environmental police squad in the latest effort to fight China’s persistent problems with heavy smog.

According to state media, Beijing’s acting mayor said Saturday that the new police force will focus on open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and the burning of wood and other biomass.

Beijing and dozens of cities in China spend many winter days under a thick, gray haze, caused chiefly by thousands of coal-burning factories and a surplus of older, inefficient vehicles.

Government-issued “red alerts” on the worst days come with emergency measures that can include shutting down highways, restricting vehicles, or ordering factories to curtail production. But enforcement remains an issue.

China’s environmental ministry acknowledged last week that its inspection teams found companies resuming production despite a government ban.

SEE ALSO: Smog-hit Beijing issues highest ‘fog’ alert for second day

Pollution alerts are common in northern China, especially during bitterly cold winters when energy demand, much of it met by coal, soars. Beijing’s smog alert is at the second-highest orange only, raising questions from some living in the city.

China is in the third year of a war on pollution aimed at reversing the damage done to its skies, soil and water after decades of untrammelled economic growth. But measures taken so far have had little or no effect.

SEE ALSO: Behind the ‘smogscreen’: Stopgap measures not helping China’s pollution woes 

Heavily polluted Hebei province, which surrounds most of Beijing, said last Tuesday it had ordered all polluting firms in Tangshan, China’s biggest steel-producing city to the east of Beijing, to shut down.

In a statement on its website, the Hebei government named Tangshan Luanxian Xinglong Iron and Steel Co. Ltd as a major culprit for failing to control emissions and even allowing the staff canteen to directly burn coal, contravening regulations.

Hebei, home to seven of China’s 10 smoggiest cities in 2015, will also build the world’s biggest dust prevention barrier, stretching nearly two miles, at the major coal port of Qinhuangdao in a bid to cut pollution, state media said on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press and Reuters