Sun Jan 8, 2017 10:03AM
A couple walk beside a lake on a heavily polluted day in Beijing, China on January 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
A couple walk beside a lake on a heavily polluted day in Beijing, China on January 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

China has put together a new environmental police force as part of a new approach to tackle the smog problem in the capital Beijing.

On Saturday, Beijing’s Mayor Cai Qi announced that the team is tasked with finding and eliminating local sources of pollution such as open-air barbeques and dusty roads in the smog-choked city.

Cai announced that coal consumption will be reduced by 30 percent in 2017.  He also promised that 300,000 rundown vehicles will be withdrawn from the roads, and that polluting factories in Beijing will either be totally shut down or upgraded.

"Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning, dust from roads - these acts of non-compliance with regulations - are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement," Cai said at a press conference.

The measures have been introduced as part of Beijing’s three-year policy to combat the crisis and respond to public demands to reduce air pollution.

On Friday, the metropolis was under an orange smog alert, the second highest of its kind, after coming out of the red alert issued the week before. 

In the past few weeks, smog has effectively left many people trapped in their homes. Flights have been canceled and roads closed due to poor visibility.

Despite the government ban on factory productions, inspection teams say a number of them have resumed work. Many factories are under pressure to meet production targets in spite of air pollution warnings.

Pollution alerts are common in China, especially during cold winters when energy demand soars. The high pollution levels are partly blamed on the country's excessive reliance on coal for energy.