China has temporarily reversed its policy of banning coal in some northern cities due to the heating crisis currently plaguing the nation.
The environment ministry issued the directive on Thursday, allowing 28 cities across north-east China to use coal again, according to Chinese media (via BBC). In the statement, the ministry said it had “discovered that in some areas, works to replace coal with electricity or gas had yet to finish according to plan, and there were anxieties about fuel sources to provide heating”.
It noted, however, that while the areas would be allowed to burn coal for heating in the meantime, their shift away toward alternative sources must “continue to ensure that the number one principle should be keeping people warm in winter”.
Banners containing slogans such as “If the boiler’s coal-fired then get rid of it” and “Anyone who sells or burns coal shall be arrested” are scattered around the country. However, many homes which failed to find alternatives to coal in time for winter are left in the cold without proper heating.
An elementary school in Hebei province made headlines earlier this week when classes were forced to be moved outdoors to get some warmth from the sun. At least 11 primary schools in Quyang county alone were left without heating.
The abrupt shift by many to alternative sources for heating also caused a gas shortage in some areas. This resulted in prices skyrocketing to record highs since mid-November which marked the winter heating season.