China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection has discovered that factories are still churning out black smoke despite recent emergency measures to reduce pollution, state-funded Chinese outlet The Paper reported.

Guomao, at the centre of the Central Business District in Beijing. Photo: The Paper.

The country issued its first ever air pollution red alert on Tuesday morning – the highest warning level. The authorities limited the use of cars, and suspended classes and construction work. The Ministry also sent out 12 teams of inspectors to areas around Beijing to ensure that businesses were following the government’s emergency response plans.

Chang’an Avenue in Beijing at night. Photo: The Paper.

“Environmental authorities must closely follow the situation, improve monitoring and forecasting, and guide local governments’ emergency response plans,” Environment Minister Chen Jining said at a press conference, raccording to the official press agency Xinhua.

Classes in Chaoyang district of Beijing were suspended because of smog. Photo: Sina News.

However, The Paper reported that the teams found out that many construction works were still being carried out illegally.

The Zouping Economic Development Zone in Shandong province had severe dust pollution, as the roads, cars and trees in the area were covered with dust. In Jinan city, some vehicles were illegally transporting sediments.

Chen said that the government would punish agencies or personnel who failed to initiate emergency response plans in a timely manner.

Automotive paint booth without licence being closed down by an environmental inspector in Dongcheng district, Beijing. Photo: Sina News.

Beijing is not alone. On the other side of the country, Hangzhou was blanketed with smog, with its Air Quality Index hitting 160 – rated “Unhealthy”. Photos on the Chinese social media site Weibo showed the contrast between blue skies and the smog-shrouded city.

Smog-shrouded Hangzhou, city of Zhejiang province in Eastern China. Photo: Weibo.

Normally, ground temperatures would be higher than in the atmosphere above. When temperature inversion happens, higher atmospheric temperatures suppress convection, trapping smog close to the ground.

Having issued two orange alerts in October and earlier this month, Beijing has announced eight air pollution alerts this year.

Koel Chu

Koel Chu is a second-year journalism and fine arts student at the University of Hong Kong. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Koel is interested in the arts and urban design. She interned at China Radio International in Beijing and, at her university, she also works as Vice-President of Branding and Marketing in AIESEC, the largest youth-run organisation in the world.