By Joey Wang, November 18, 2013
The crusade against cars in Chinese cities continues in an ever faster pace. The newest battle
is in the city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, where local
authorities have implemented a strict odd-even license plate restriction
system. The measure was launched on Sunday after the city pollution
levels exceeded 101 on the official air quality index for three
consecutive days last week. Levels above 101 are considered unhealthy.
The restrictions will remain in place until Jan 10, authorities in
the Gansu provincial capital said. Under the measure, vehicles whose
license plates end in odd or even numbers will be allowed on the road on
alternating days — half of the cars will be barred on any particular
The model is similar to one used by Beijing to clean the air ahead of
the 2008 Olympic Games, and it has been an idea considered in several
major cities. Beijing and Guangzhou, which are also troubled by air
pollution, have recently announced plans to implement the odd-and-even
restrictions on heavily polluted days.
Lanzhou, located in a valley and surrounded by mountains, and with
its developed heavy industry, is among the most polluted cities in
China. Its environmental protection bureau said that weather conditions
for the next five to seven days would not help disperse pollutants, a
factor behind the decision to restrict cars.
To cope with the lingering dust, Lanzhou has already suspended work
at all construction sites and increased the frequency of road cleaning
and washing, the bureau said.
Chai Fahe, vice-president of the Chinese Research Academy of
Environmental Sciences, said cities are increasingly imposing car
restrictions to curb pollution, yet most were only restricted to a fixed
time period. “Lanzhou has made remarkable progress in curbing air
pollution, and the decision was made to consolidate the progress it had
In 2011, Lanzhou ranked as the worst Chinese city in the World Health
Organization’s survey tracking air pollution by the levels of airborne
particles smaller than 10 micrometers in 1,086 cities across the world.
Lanzhou later dropped off the list of the top 10 most polluted cities in China through stiff anti-pollution measures, Chai said.
Car restrictions in Lanzhou were the strictest among cities that have
carried out similar plans.The Lanzhou Public Transport Group, which
runs the city’s public transportation system, said it will increase bus
Under a contingency plan for air pollution in Beijing, authorities
could implement the odd-even car restrictions and suspend 30 percent of
public vehicles if meteorological authorities forecast three consecutive
days of severe pollution.