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Pearl River Delta to ban gov't autos on bad air days


BEIJING, Aug. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- The use of government vehicles in the Pearl River Delta will be reduced if air quality in the region reaches dangerous levels, according to an emergency draft issued by the Guangdong provincial environmental protection authority.

The draft aims to better tackle air pollution following an increased use of vehicles in the Pearl River Delta region, sources with the provincial authority said.

The authority gave two levels for serious air pollution - very unhealthy when the air quality index is between 201 and 300 and hazardous when the index surpasses 300.

Under the proposal, 30 percent of government vehicles will be kept off roads in the region if the index reaches the hazardous level.

If the index reaches the unhealthy level, 15 percent of such vehicles will be suspended from use.

The draft, which has been submitted to the Pearl River Delta air pollution coordinative meeting to solicit opinions from its member cities, is expected to take effect by the end of this year, according to the provincial authority.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection has defined a new air quality index that includes PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) and ozone, which many cities including Beijing and Guangzhou in Guangdong province have adopted.

The index focuses on reporting the daily air quality and health effects people within an area may suffer within a few hours or days.

According to the draft, the authority will publicize measures for local residents to reduce health risks if the air quality reaches the hazardous level. For example, people will be advised to avoid all physical activity outdoors and those with heart or lung disease, the elderly and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low, according to the draft.

The construction and demolition of buildings will also be suspended during the day if the index reaches more than 300 and coal-fired power plants will be ordered to suspend operations by stages.

A recent air quality report released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection said for nearly 80 percent of the first half of the year, the Pearl River Delta was within air quality standards.

However, the report added that the average levels of ozone in the delta region exceeded the national level by about 20 percent from January to June.

A survey conducted on Wednesday by local website Dayoo.com found that up to 90 percent of respondents welcomed banning government vehicles if the air quality reached dangerous levels.

However, a large number of respondents questioned how the emergency plan would take effect.

"I don't know how they calculate the number of public service vehicles and how the government supervises the use of them on bad air days," said a netizen named Huang.

The emergency draft in the Pearl River Delta follows a similar plan in Beijing, which also bans some government vehicles during days with heavy pollution.


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