Asia

Choked by smog, Beijing creates new environmental police

  • A woman wears a mask as she walks past a construction site as smog continues to choke Beijing on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. The official Xinhua News Agency reported this week that the environmental ministry had given out punishments after finding that more than 500 construction sites and enterprises, including metallurgy, agricultural chemical and steel plants, and 10,000 vehicles had breached pollution response plans. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    A woman wears a mask as she walks past a construction site as smog continues to choke Beijing on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. The official Xinhua News Agency reported this week that the environmental ministry had given out punishments after finding that more than 500 construction sites and enterprises, including metallurgy, agricultural chemical and steel plants, and 10,000 vehicles had breached pollution response plans. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • Chinese men wearing masks to filter the pollution walk on a bridge near building shrouded by fog and pollution in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. China has long faced some of the worst air pollution in the world, blamed on its reliance of coal for energy and factory production, as well as a surplus of older, less efficient cars on its roads. Inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of standards have worsened the pollution problem. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

    Chinese men wearing masks to filter the pollution walk on a bridge near building shrouded by fog and pollution in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. China has long faced some of the worst air pollution in the world, blamed on its reliance of coal for energy and factory production, as well as a surplus of older, less efficient cars on its roads. Inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of standards have worsened the pollution problem. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)  (The Associated Press)

Officials in Beijing are creating a new environmental police squad in the latest effort to fight China's persistent problems with heavy smog.

According to state media, Beijing's acting mayor said Saturday that the new police force will focus on open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and the burning of wood and other biomass.

Beijing and dozens of cities in China spend many winter days under a thick, gray haze, caused chiefly by thousands of coal-burning factories and a surplus of older, inefficient vehicles.

Government-issued "red alerts" on the worst days come with emergency measures that can include shutting down highways, restricting vehicles, or ordering factories to curtail production. But enforcement remains an issue.

China's environmental ministry acknowledged last week that its inspection teams found companies resuming production despite a government ban.