A blanket of smog has descended upon almost two dozen major cities in the People’s Republic of China this week. The government’s reaction to the environmental crisis has affected all walks of life, including a possible effect upon the country’s aluminium production.
Weather forecasters predict dangerous levels of smog for the cities of Beijing and Tianjin and the northern provinces of Hebei, Henan and Shandong. The smog arrived on Friday 16th and will last through Wednesday 21st, leading to the municipal government of Beijing to issue the first air quality red alert of 2016.
China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) plans to respond by sending thirteen inspection groups to areas of high-population density. According to the government’s announcement, these teams have been given a mandate to crack down on illegal polluters by taking measures up to and including temporarily suspending the operations of those identified as heavy polluters.
The smog affects the heartland of Chinese industry, threatening to shut down the cities of Liaocheng and Binzhou, home of Xinfa and Hongqiao, respectively. As reported previously in these pages, both of these firms have been on the government’s radar for allegedly serious infractions of the government’s environmental regulations.
Although the immediate condition has become threatening, the long-term changes in China’s air quality are less than encouraging as well. The MEP announced on Wednesday that air quality in over seventy cities during the month of November has worsened year-on-year. Particulate levels in some areas of the country have ballooned to over four times higher than recommended healthy intake levels. Coal burning for industrial power significantly contributes to these levels and, as the domestic aluminum industry is among the most prolific users of such outmoded methods, heavily polluting aluminium smelters may well face more significant sanctions in the near future.