Beijingers face stiff anti-smog rules again

Beijingers face stiff anti-smog rules again
Vehicles drive on the Sihui overpass amid heavy haze and smog in Beijing, in this October 11, 2014 file picture. China's capital is expected to face more heavy smog from October 29, 2014 as it battles to try to guarantee air quality ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit starting on Saturday, forecasters said.

What do Beijing residents have to forgo to enjoy clean air and clear roads? For Ms Chang Ying, it is two bottles of milk daily.

Her neighbourhood milk vendor in the Haidian district has suspended deliveries from Monday till next Thursday, as a result of vehicle usage restrictions implemented by China to present its best side to world leaders arriving for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings.

"Between blue skies and milk, I choose the blue skies. It is a small price to pay. But I think those with young children and elderly folk who need milk more may not think the same," Ms Chang, 56, who works at a university publication, told The Straits Times.

A host of security and pollution-control measures rolled out for the Apec summit, which officially kicked off yesterday with a senior officials' meeting, has caused inconveniences in various areas to Beijing residents.

Reminiscent of measures adopted during the 2008 Olympic Games to produce the facade of a clean city, a scheme kicked in on Monday that bars vehicles based on whether the last digit of the licence plate numbers is odd or even. It removes half the city's private vehicles from the roads at any one time. Restrictions also prevent trucks, motorcycles and non-Beijing vehicles from entering certain areas.

Reduced transport services have led to many residents having to wait longer to receive mail. It is also taking longer for online shopping addicts to get their hands on their latest purchases.

The shutting down of unsightly streetside stalls and suspension of public services, such as at Beijing's entry-exit agency that handles passport matters for citizens and visa renewals for foreigners, have also caused much inconvenience to the public.

Buses and subway trains have seen increased passenger loads.

Beijing-based teacher Sun Qian, 26, now has to leave for work 30 minutes earlier than usual to get to another subway station because the Olympic Green station near her home is among the three stations closed at varying times over the duration of the summit as they are located near the venue of the Apec meetings.

"It's very inconvenient, but I can still accept it for the benefits that hosting the Apec meetings brings, such as the clean air that Beijing has had in the past few days," she said.

Not all are so sanguine. Mr Liu Bin, 34, a sales manager in Beijing, said his livelihood will be affected if he is unable to drive around the city to meet clients.

He also needs to plan well the journey between his workplace in Beijing and his home in Tianjin port city as the odd-even licence plate scheme is adopted differently in Tianjin and Hebei province.

"It means I can drive my vehicle which has an even last-digit number in Beijing but not in Hebei on the same day," he said.

In an editorial yesterday headlined "Clear skies should be forever", state-run China Daily newspaper wrote that China should "look forward to the days when it will not be necessary to introduce these special measures to ensure clean air for whatever international events held in the city, or indeed elsewhere in the country."

kianbeng@sph.com.sg

esthert@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Carol Feng


This article was first published on Nov 6, 2014.
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