Air pollution awareness soars in China

Air pollution awareness soars in China

As China enjoys an economic boom, air pollution has become a serious problem. As incomes rise and priorities shift away from only covering the basic needs to ensuring a better life, environmental awareness is also soaring in China.

A city shrouded in pollution.

Skies like these in the bustling city of Shanghai are now a common view in China’s booming cities

Development has come at a cost….poor air quality.

To tackle the problem, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has pledged to implement PM2.5 readings nationwide by 2016.

This Shanghai monitoring station is at the forefront of a new era, since the city has pledged to be among the first 30 major urban centres to begin the monitoring.

Fu Qingyan, Chief Engineer of Shanghai Environmental Monitoring Center, said, “Both the public and we, at the Environmental Monitoring Centre, feel like the PM10 index is not good enough to reflect the current air quality status. That’s the reason we need to start monitoring finer particles of the PM2.5 size.”

Most of the pollution in China comes from emissions in plants that burn coal, the main source of the country’s energy needs.

Like many other big Chinese cities, Shanghai is surrounded by a belt of factories supplying the steel, chemical and electronic industries.

Zhou Jun, Shanghai Environment Protection Bureau, said, “In the past 30 years we have advanced more than other countries did over a 100-year period. If 100 years of development cause a lot of environmental degradation, here the same thing has happened in the last 30 years.”

The awareness has hit the streets, although many of those interviewed accept that the pollution is something that comes with greater wealth and development.

A Shanghai resident said, “I think it’s useless to wear a facemask. Because you will have to breathe anyway and you still live in this environment. I just try to minimise the time I spend outdoors.”

And air purifiers are now the big sellers in electronic appliance shops.

By the end of 2010, there were over 30 million units available for purchase already from different foreign and local brands.

So far, two-thirds of China’s cities currently fail to meet stricter air quality standards that the government wants to phase in over four years to combat smoggy skies.

Although long-term data released by local governments shows that overall air quality has been improving in the last decade, there’s much to do.

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