As of 2015’s concluding months, China’s air pollution problem has been hitting the headlines, serving as a constant reminder of its persistence and severity. Although 10 cities in China had been issued red alerts December last year, and announced unsafe for citizens to remain outdoors for prolonged periods, Greenpeace’s 2015 data reveals that PM 2.5 levels (particulate matter levels from coal combustion) in China had in fact dropped by 10%.
Premier Li Ke-Qiang was also said to be waging a “war with pollution”. Despite this unexpected reversal, most of the major Chinese cities maintain dangerous levels of smog and air quality. So, after all, is China in the process of improving air quality to meet international safety standards, and what are some of its measures due to be implemented in the near future?
To nobody’s surprise, as the world leaves 2015 behind and prepares for the dawn of 2016, Beijing’s smog levels also strike an all-time high, resulting in streets to be cleared and gas masks to be pulled out. China’s pollution problem has remained a tenacious one due to excessive coal-burning in local factories and power plants.
The multiple red alerts and smog-filled photographs issued last year are grabbing more international attention than ever. However, following Greenpeace’s 2015 report revealing China’s improving air quality, China had announced its termination in the constructing of new local coal mines within the next three years, as well as its plans of closing down up to 1,000 mines in correspondence to its persistent pollution problem. China’s coal ban and declining coal consumption is a heavily persuasive progress in its journey to cleaner and safer air.
What are some of China’s measures for improving air quality?
It has been revealed that China had devised multiple plans to keep smog levels in check, which are possible reasons behind the decreasing levels of particulate matter. Apart from the central government’s efforts to decrease pollution levels, provincial governments in China are also warming up to join the pollution resistance, and this was an ongoing process since 2014.
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China presents flying parafoil drones: unmanned bots with wings and chemical parachutes that are equipped with particulate-clearing technologies. These drones will be tested in major Chinese cities, and are useful resources for surveillance, disaster relief, and as an integrated tool in agriculture. Furthermore, the central government had been encouraging its citizens to abandon their cars, and to replace them with riding bikes and walking, as well as implementing 25-year environment laws and tax breaks to boost the market of eco-friendly green cars.
If China had all these proposals under their belt, the process of relieving pollution and improving air quality should be a quicker and more effective one than it is at the moment. Why have red alerts for hazardous smog levels been issued all over the country, even after these measures have taken place?
The Diplomat states that China still “faces problems in implementing and enforcing these proposals”, pinpointing its improper operating of pollution control units and realized difficulties of catching and convicting non-compliance scattered nationwide. The Tianjin explosion that happened last summer would be a case on point, as it had created a leakage of toxic cyanide chemicals that infiltrated a populated residential and commercial area in the city. Within the warehouse, discrepancies in the storage content reports were noted by Tianjin’s State Administration of Work Safety, and authorities did not find out what the warehouse contained until after the incident.
Greenpeace’s data conveys that China has been making progressive efforts that led to a perceivable drop in its PM 2.5 levels last year. It is clear that although China has theoretical ideas and measures since 2014 to lower pollutant levels and clear the atmosphere of smog and dirt, implementing them would require rigorous efforts, intricate organization, as well as increased funding.