Smog insurers, authorities tested by latest pollution

 

Testing the Water  |  Graphic by Xu Jun 

 

 

 

 

Smog insurers, authorities

tested by latest pollution

 

 

By Liang Saiyu, Han Xiaojing, Weng Ye and Lu Chang

 

 

 

There could be a silver lining to the cloud of smog that once again shrouded northeast China on Monday of March 24, as new insurance schemes may compensate those choking on the polluted air.

“Smog is also foreseeable in the upcoming Tomb-sweeping holiday, when Chinese traditionally burn incense to remember and honor their ancestors,” said Shanghai resident Li Kui, who has signed up for a specialist smog policy launched by Ping An Insurance (Group) of China.

Li spent 10 yuan (1.6 U.S.dollars) to insure himself in the period from April 1 to 7, with the three-day holiday falling on the last three of those days.

In exchange for premiums of 10 to 15 yuan, Ping An has promised to cough up as much as 50 yuan a day to those subjected to hazardous skies.

The insurance scheme covers seven cities, where pay-out criteria vary, although they are all based on readings from mobile phone app Fresh Ideas Studio. In Beijing, the app will have to show an air pollution index above 200, and in Shanghai, it will have to top 100.

Ping An put the scheme on sale only from March 19 to 26. According the company, it has already sold out of the policies, although it did not specify the number it offered.

“The insurance is a publicity stunt, but it also encourages the public to care more about their health,” said Li.

Beijing’s official Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 228 at 6 p.m. on Monday of March 24, when that of Fresh Ideas Studio registered 212.

The Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center said the smog will probably linger in the coming days, as the weather is unlikely to help disperse it.

The People’s Insurance Company (Group) of China Ltd., the nation’s largest insurer, also launched a policy on March 18 to compensate Beijingers made ill by air pollution with up to 1,800 yuan.

Despite the accompanying possibility of financial gain from insurance, the fresh bout of pollution has renewed public concerns and heaped more pressure on a government that has vowed to fight the frequent occurrence of smoggy days.

Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said at the China Development Forum 2014, a three-day event which closed on Monday in the capital, that the government is keeping a close eye on climactic conditions, and acknowledged that he was under great pressure when the air is not clear.

The capital invested 8 billion yuan in improving air quality last year, Wang added.

Heavy smog blanketed the Chinese capital for a whole week in February, and its neighbors Tianjin and Hebei had no blue skies in the meantime.

Among the top 10 heavily polluted cities, seven are in north China’s Hebei Province, which encircles Beijing. In addition, Tianjin is also listed among the top 10, according to a report from Tsinghua University.

At a symposium in Beijing on February 27, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged that Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province should strengthen cooperation and coordination in environmental protection.

China is also set to slash steel and cement capacity and eliminate tens of thousands of coal-fired furnaces, according to a work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the country’s recently concluded legislative session.

Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei have pledged that by 2017, coal consumption and carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by 63 million tonnes and 122 million tonnes, respectively, when compared to 2012.

Over 100 million people live in the three regions, which has a combined area of 216,000 square km.

 

 

 

 

 

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