Beijing Plans to Reduce Traffic and Keep Air Cleaner with Driving Schedule

Oct 18, 2013 01:07 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Beijing

The growing smog problem, which has increased as more people own cars, could be a military defense, according to a Chinese newspaper. (Photo : Reuters)

Beijing officials have introduced new guidelines to help control air pollution that outline an alternative day driving schedule, a plan that would reduce emissions but force more residents to use the already crowded public transportation system, NBC News reports.

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The plan would alternate cars with even and odd numbered license plates in the event of heavy smog, the outlet said.

The new rules were reported late Thursday by Chinese state news agency Xinhua. They call for the driving schedule to be enforced on days when Beijing issues a "red alert" under a four-tiered pollution warning system. A red alert will be issued when the air quality index (AQI) is expected to be over 300 over a three-day period.

Swapping out drivers on alternate days will put an estimated 2 million more people onto the city's already packed buses and subway, according to the Environmental Protection Bureau.

Similar steps were put in place to limit congestion on the streets when Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The city has seen some success in dealing with air pollution since 2008; particulate matter 10 (particulate 10 micrometers in size) readings across the city have steadily gone down.

But despite officials' efforts, PM2.5, a far more dangerous particulate that originates from car exhaust, has skyrocketed as more cars come to Beijing's crowded streets.      

A study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that nearly a quarter of PM2.5 particulate found in the city originated from car exhaust.

 To keep children safe, the new guidelines stipulate that all kindergartens, primary and high schools suspend classes on red alert days until air quality improves.

China's ruling Communist Party recently offered nearly $1 billion dollars in incentives to local governments to fight air pollution, either through the suspension of construction projects or heavy industry or transitioning from coal-burning power plants to more expensive natural gas plants.

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