Air pollution in northern China including the capital city of Beijing reached hazardous levels for the fourth straight day on Tuesday, highlighting the fallout from resurgent coal production and related demand in the world's second largest economy.
The world's largest coal consumer, Beijing declared a "war on pollution" in 2014, but still faces hurdles in improving air quality after decades of breakneck growth.
"China was making very impressive progress towards cleaner air in 2014 and 2015 after it issued a national air pollution action plan to reduce coal consumption …. But unfortunately over the past nine months, government economic policies shifted toward stimulating some of the heavy industry sectors that are responsible for the heavy pollution in Beijing," said Greenpeace's senior global coal campaigner, Lauri Myllyvirta.
Myllyvirta said the current episode is the worst on record with some 460 million in China exposed to heavy or hazardous pollution from smog-causing coal used in power generation.
By Sunday, 24 cities in northern China had issued "red alerts" for pollution, China's environment ministry said on its website. There were no further updates as of Tuesday in Asia.