Beijing Hopes for Clear Skies, Clean Air on National Day
When the sun comes up in Beijing on October 1, the Chinese government will aim to celebrate its 70th birthday under a bright blue sky.
The Chinese capital will close building sites, reduce the use of fireworks and restrict fuel sales ahead of this year's National Day. The holiday marks the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Ahead of major events in the past, officials have taken more extreme measures to improve air quality, such as seeding clouds to make rain and closing factories for days.
There is still time for the government to announce similar restrictions this year. But business leaders believe widespread closures are not part of the plan -- as long as usual smog controls continue to do the job.
An independent study last week showed Beijing is set to drop from the list of the world's top 200 most-polluted cities this year.
China's biggest cement producer, China National Building Materials, has not received any official closure notice yet. It does not expect any special measures.
"I think that if there are measures they won't necessarily be connected with National Day," Cui Xingtai, vice-president of the state-run company, told Reuters reporters. "In certain seasons, some places can introduce policies to alleviate the extent of air pollution," Cui added.
Officials with three small independent refineries in nearby Shandong province also told Reuters they were not expecting to have to cut production before October 1.
Area officials do have the anniversary in mind. Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, has launched an inspection of coal mines. It says the inspections are designed to prevent any accidents ahead of the National Day celebrations.
As October 1 nears, observers say production cuts could come, especially in cities close to Beijing. But widespread, total shutdowns are unlikely.
The environment ministry said earlier this week that mostly good weather will keep pollution levels in control. But, high amounts of small floating particles known as PM2.5 were expected to rise in Beijing in the last 10 days of the month.
"There has been no official notice, though there's still time," said an industry expert with ties to the Tangshan Iron and Steel Association. The expert asked not to be identified.
Liu Qingxi supervises a cement plant in Tongling city, about 1,200 kilometers south of Beijing. Liu told Reuters the company only expected to take action if air quality worsened greatly.
"We've not been told anything yet but if there are bad weather conditions they might ask us to stop production," Liu said.
I'm Ashley Thompson.