Air Pollution beyond index in China

The world’s leaders have all left Paris now after the most recent meeting to determine how the global community should stop the destruction...

The world’s leaders have all left Paris now after the most recent meeting to determine how the global community should stop the destruction of our environment and the impending doom of global warming. As the dust settles in Europe, reports of air pollution being off the scale in Beijing are doing their rounds in the world’s media.

Source: Instagram - GanGanLiu
Dealing with smog has become so much a part of daily life in China that an update is provided with the evening’s weather forecast. This year, though, it seems to have reached new heights with the North of the country battling an unseasonal cold - the air quality index has risen to more than 500, which is categorised as officially beyond the index and is right above hazardous.

A safe level of airborne particulate matter, which is what the air quality index is measured by, is at 25 micrograms per cubic meter, by the World Health Organization’s standard. That line is so often exceeded in cities like Beijing that even a government official has described it as unbearable. About two-thirds of China's energy is still derived from coal, and the northern half of the republic relies on it for heating during winter. Outdated district heating plants burning low quality “brown” coal are some of the biggest culprits and the government has made moves to update these.

Although China's ruling Communist Party has tightened emissions standards and invested in solar, wind and other renewable energy, the country still depends on coal for most of its power, as we have mentioned. China intends to build hundreds of nuclear reactors to reduce its dependence on coal, but with the recent industrial history of China being littered by environmentally damaging industrial accidents, the handling of the spent fuel rods from these new, cleaner power stations must be a cause for concern. Still, China's government-run newspapers posted articles on Tuesday promising improvements, but don’t hold your breath - their time scale is in five to 10 years.

“Emissions of major air pollutants will begin to decline in five to 10 years as part of government mandates to reduce total emissions, but more time will be needed for significant improvement in China's environment,” China Daily reported.

In the meantime, factories and roads are being closed and a government initiative has been put in place to banish older and thus more polluting cars from the roads of China. Of course, our old friends over at X-1R will tell you that the use of their product will significantly help reduce both the fuel consumption of any vehicle and, equally importantly, the emissions particularly those from diesel-powered vehicles that are idling. In any congested city, commerce relies on diesel power to get all sorts of goods and services to the point that they are required. These vehicles spend a lot of time sitting at traffic lights and in jams where the engine just idles. The clever scientists over at X-1R have actually proven that the use of their Diesel Fuel additives will reduce emissions by up to 65% and overall fuel consumption by 8.5% or more (see the results of the test).

Meanwhile, the authorities in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, will be imposing a fine on drivers of dirty vehicles because they affect the appearance of the city, so reports the official regional newspaper, Nanjing Daily. Small fines of up to 100 yuan (USD16) will be dished out if the body, wheels or chassis of a vehicle is muddy, and the owner will be told to clean the offending areas, according to the report. We’re not sure that this is what the central government in Beijing had in mind when they demanded cleaner vehicles though.

The sometimes grey, sometimes brown, sometimes yellow air has become an embarrassment to be hidden on occasions when China's choked capital city is brought into the spotlight. Drastic measures were implemented and strictly enforced to clear the air during the great parade celebrating the end of WWII, and last year’s APEC summit, but the effects were only temporary. 

At least you can still see your local McDonalds.


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