Serious air pollution has been a big problem in Beijing for many years, and a recent official Chinese report stated that the Chinese capital is becoming “barely suitable” for living (Kaiman, 2014). Last year, China suffered the worst air pollution in 52 years, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. In 2010, outdoor air pollution, which is a leading cause of cancer, contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The main sources of pollutants are exhaust emission, coal burning in neighbouring regions, dust storms blowing in from the north, dust from local construction and decades of industrial growth adding pollution to the air. In January, at the start of the Lunar New Year, a blanket of smog hit the capital city. Pollutant levels reached extreme levels with one pollutant even reaching 26 times the safe level recommended by the World Health Organisation. Roads had to be shut as the smog reduced visibility to 500 metres. This was the peak travel season with the New Year approaching and thousands of commuters making their way home, so understandably this caused huge problems and traffic delays. Residents received warnings to wear masks as the density of PM2.5 fine particles, which are considered the most hazardous, reached dangerous levels (Jing, 2014). During the Chinese New Year holiday celebrations, Beijing even published a “fireworks index” which was a guideline informing residents on whether setting off firecrackers and fireworks could significantly worsen the smog-filled air. Other government agencies also asked for Beijing residents to have a “clean-air New Year” and not partake in traditional New Year customs such as ritual burning of fake paper money and incense as well as outdoor cooking, all of which could pollute the air even more (Meng, 2014).
In an attempt to clean up the smoggy, polluted air, Beijing’s authorities have introduced a new set of measures to cut emissions and have allocated 760 billion yuan (£75.8 billion) to greatly improve the city’s air quality by 2017. The new measures will involve cutting coal burning, limiting car emissions and setting yearly quotas for local governments and individual polluters. Anyone found to be in violation of air pollution standards will also receive bigger fines (Duggan, 2014).
Pollution in Beijing is becoming an ever-increasing problem and with an estimated population of 20,693,000, effective measures need to be implemented as soon as possible before pollutant levels get out of control.
Duggan, J. (2014) Beijing to spend £76bn to improve city’s air quality, Available: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/chinas-choice/2014/jan/23/china-beijing-authorities-measures-tackle-air-pollution Last accessed 20 Feb 2014
Jing, L. (2014) Blanket of smog in Beijing hits start of Lunar New Year getaway, Available: http://www.scmp.com/news/china-insider/article/1406793/beijing-hit-first-bout-charts-air-pollution-new-year Last accessed 20 Feb 2014
Kaiman, J. (2014) Pollution making Beijing hazardous place to live, says Chinese report, Available: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/13/china-beijing-pollution-hazardous-report Last accessed 20 Feb 2014
Meng, A. (2014) Smog-locked Beijing tries to persuade residents away from fireworks during Chinese New Year, Available: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1412431/smog-locked-beijing-tries-persuade-residents-away-fireworks-during Last accessed 20 Feb 2014