Beijing confronts pollution dilemma

"For nearly 15 years the Chinese government has been talking about improving the air quality in Beijing and by its own measures it seems to have done a pretty good job...",
What? GJ? ↓ like this condition is GJ?....(・o・)
Well, not my country....
But, "Concern rises as China’s air pollution blown over Japan"....

Beijing confronts pollution dilemma
For nearly 15 years the Chinese government has been talking about improving the air quality in Beijing and by its own measures it seems to have done a pretty good job.
Since the city launched a campaign in 1998 to clean up the atmosphere the number of “blue sky days” recorded by the government increased every single year until 2011, when it achieved a record 286 days with supposedly clean air, compared to just 100 in 1998.
But as anyone who has lived for long in Beijing can attest, “blue sky” has become something of a redundant concept when applied to air quality in the celestial capital.
Over the weekend, air pollution readings in the city were the worst since records began about four years ago, with the concentration of fine particulates reaching a level 75 times greater than that considered healthy under the latest US standards.
A thick layer of toxic fog blanketing Beijing for days blotted out the sun and disrupted traffic as residents were warned to stay inside and avoid any strenuous activity so as to minimise their exposure to the hazardous fumes.
Despite years of official rhetoric and a couple of years when there was a noticeable improvement, the air now seems to be getting worse and could even present the incoming administration of Xi Jinping with a credibility crisis.
Chinese and international experts say one of the biggest problems the government faces is the willingness of officials at all levels to sacrifice environmental concerns for the overriding imperative of economic growth.
A lack of accountability in the system, the weakness of the agencies tasked with tackling the issue and the ease with which data collection and presentation is manipulated all compound the problem.
“China’s national leaders have ordered an improvement in air quality but thanks to misreporting and manipulation of data at the lower levels, they often aren’t aware of the severity of the problem,” says Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who exposed official manipulation of air pollution data in Beijing in the run-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
“For lower-level officials, they can often get the same results by manipulating the data as they do by enforcing emissions standards.”
Since enforcing these standards means confronting powerful state enterprises and power producers ? many of which have emissions-treatment equipment installed but choose not to use it because of the costs involved ? many officials prefer to massage the numbers, Mr Andrews says.
Chinese scientists who have conducted independent studies on air quality say that all sorts of tricks are used by the authorities in order to provide numbers that show improvements and make their superiors look good.
These range from blatantly changing the readings to placing city air monitoring stations in places where pollution levels are lowest, such as in parks or next to sprinkler systems.
Another problem is that China’s definition of unhealthy pollution levels seems designed to downplay the issue ? the highest concentration of toxic particulates still regarded as “excellent” in China is three times higher than the level that is considered healthy in the US.
That many Beijing residents are even aware the “fog” they have been breathing over the past few days is bad for them already marks a huge leap forward compared with just one year ago.
It was around this time last year that Beijing, under increasing public pressure, agreed to start reporting concentrations of pm2.5 ? a measure of tiny particulates that are the most dangerous to human health because they can penetrate deep into the lungs and even enter the bloodstream.
Previously Beijing had only reported on the less dangerous larger particles, known as pm10, and the data were considered highly unreliable and subject to manipulation.
The decision to provide more and better information on air pollution resulted from rising public awareness driven by an unexpected source ? the US embassy in Beijing.
Starting in 2008 the US embassy began publishing hourly readings for pm2.5 concentrations online using equipment installed on the embassy roof that often painted a very different picture from the “blue sky” reports coming from the government.
Partly as a result of the embarrassing discrepancies between the US embassy numbers and the official data, the director of the Beijing Air Quality Department announced in June last year that henceforth the city would end its reporting of blue sky days.
At the same time he identified a big part of the problem when he acknowledged that “the air quality results we released were always different from the true feelings of the general public”.

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