Beijing smogEnlarge Photo
China is fast becoming an air quality disaster zone.
On several occasions over the past six months, smog levels in major cities have reached hazardous levels, requiring fast action and dramatic changes from policymakers.
The latest can be found in Shijiazhuang, the capital city of the steel-producing Hebei province around Beijing, where car ownership will now be limited and decided by lottery.
Pollution from traffic and industry has worsened in China in recent years. In Shijiazhuang, Bloomberg reports, the solution is to restrict the number of new vehicles on the roads to just 100,000 units this year.
Households will be limited to two cars, with further cuts planned. By 2015, no more than 90,000 new cars can be sold, with a lottery in place to determine who can buy them.
It isn't the first province to impose such a scheme, and Shijiazhuang is far from being the first area affected by heavy pollution--China's Ministry of Environmental Protection puts six of China's ten worst cities for air pollution in the Hebei province.
Earlier this month, after several months of hazardous pollution levels, Beijing itself announced a new pollution tax, set to add significant costs to the price of driving in the city.
Before that, the city pledged to remove 180,000 of the most polluting vehicles from its roads, while the country as a whole is aiming for tougher efficiency standards in the coming years as the country becomes the highest consumer of cars in the world.
Other restrictions include alternate-day use of passenger vehicles, and restricted hours for entering city limits for heavy vehicles.
Several Eastern countries have been affected by the recent waves of pollution, largely caused by industry and the use of coal-burning heaters in colder areas over winter. The pollution is particularly heavy in PM2.5s--microscopic particulate matter hazardous to human health.
Pollution is a global issue, but for those located in some of China's most polluted cities, the local problems are even more grave--needing instant, significant action.