Caixin
Nov 27, 2014 05:19 PM
ENVIRONMENT

Smog's Return Spurs Capital to Mull Driving Limits Used for APEC

(Beijing) – Days of hazardous air quality in the capital have prompted officials to consider making permanent traffic restrictions that were used to curb smog during a recent international summit.

The government is researching banning half of its vehicles from the roads every day, a vice mayor said at a recent forum on November 26. "A proposal has been brought forward to enforce a rule that would permit only vehicles with even- and odd-numbered license plaes on streets during alternating days, including the weekends," Vice Mayor Li Shixiang said.

Beijingers got a break from heavy traffic and smog during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit from November 1 to 11. Officials used a series of measures to ensure clear skies, a phenomenon locals started calling "APEC blue."

Those steps included stopping construction sites from working to mitigate dust, cleaning streets more often, shutting or slowing production at factories and keeping half the city's cars off the roads every day, a measure that was also used when the capital hosted the Olympics in 2008.

A week after the APEC meeting, snarled traffic and hazardous levels of smog returned to the capital, prompting some residents to urge the government to reintroduce the traffic measures.

However, not everyone is on board with the idea. The move limited people's rights to their property, said Shen Kui, associate dean at Peking University's Law School. Residents of the capital were willing to tolerate the temporary odd-even license plate system during the APEC meeting, he said, but this did not mean they would stand for it being made permanent.

Shen said more research would be needed to understand how the temporary policy affected traffic and air quality.

About three-quarters of respondents to a survey on the news portal Sohu.com said they did not believe traffic limitations would be necessary to achieve "APEC blue," and 65 percent said they are not in favor of making the odd-even license plate system permanent. A total of 1,190 people participated in the survey by 4 p.m. on November 27.

(Rewritten by Guo Kai)

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