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PM2.5 Glasses And Paper Bags – Environmental Chic for Smog-battered Chinese

Posted: 10/13/2014 8:30 am

Beijing’s air quality index has registered above 300, or “hazardous”, over several days last week, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Many residents braced themselves for the “airpocalypse” by wearing face masks and cranking their air purifiers at home. Some Chongqing residents were even spotted wearing PM 2.5 glasses and paper bags with blackened lungs to raise environmental awareness.

On Saturday in Chongqing’s Foreigners’ Street, a popular tourist attraction, a number of shop owners wore the glasses and paper bags emblazoned with, “we need fresh air”. Others held signs shaped like a hand that read, “we need to protect our environment like our home”, and “protect environment, quash PM 2.5″.

However, not everyone was complaining. Retailers selling face masks, air purifiers, and any other smog resistant products made a pretty penny. In the last few days, the average price of an air purifier in Beijing went from RMB 40 to as high as RMB 20,000, while the price of face masks rocketed to nearly RMB 100, up from RMB 2.5, according to the report.

Whether those products actually protect residents remains debatable, however. State governments in seven provinces, coupled with 35 local government bodies are working to formulate regulations on air quality related products. The regulations are expected to be released in 2015.

Photos: China News


Mainland Refuses To Allow Hong Kong To Release Full Air Quality Reports

Posted: 07/14/2014 1:26 pm

guangzhou smog air pollutionThe Hong Kong government has admitted to withholding the results of two publicly-funded air pollution studies of the Pearl River Delta at the request of mainland government officials because they contain “confidential information”, reports the SCMP.

An Environmental Department spokesperson said the studies, which cost HK$10 million each, were to serve as the scientific basis for establishing new cross-boundary emissions targets for 2015 and 2020 and to enhance an air quality monitoring network. They were designed to study the formation of photochemical smog, or ozone pollution, and industrial sources of air pollution in the region, according to the SCMP’s report.

The two-and-a-half reports were finished in 2011 but only parts were published on the department’s website in May this year. A spokesperson revealed that Hong Kong had a binding agreement with Guangdong not to release the full reports, which contained unspecified sensitive information.

A spokesperson for the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau insisted the information must be kept confidential because the reports include “some data about some enterprises. We have made a simplified version of what the public needs to know about it.”

In 2002, a regional air quality report was made and fully disclosed to the public.

Photo: Weather


Bookmark This: Real-Time Air Quality Index Map for Guangdong

Posted: 05/8/2014 9:30 am

air quality index map visual representation guangdong Mask, or no mask? Planning your day has gotten so much easier.

The Real-Time Air Quality Index Visual Map is a website that allows users to read AQI readings from various environmental substations around their area in map form. Get a better idea of the local air pollution situation by seeing the differences in air quality by geographical location.

The top map is a representation of the PRD via clicking on “Guangdong“, but here’s Guangzhou:air quality index map visual representation guangdong

Dongguan:air quality index map visual representation guangdong

And Shenzhen:air quality index map visual representation guangdong

There’s also listings for other Guangdong and PRD cities like Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Foshan, Huizhou, Shunde, Jiangmen, Maoming, and Hong Kong, some of which are the cleanest cities in China.

As this map is world-wide, you can also access other areas. At a glance, you can see the very reason why residents of Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu are now flocking to the beautiful, sunny south.

Warning: once you start exploring this map, it’s hard to stop. After living in a polluted place like China, you’ll start fancying yourself living in some remote areas. After looking at this map, I’m now sorry I ever made fun of Thunder Bay, Ontario, though I still don’t mind the 15 hours it took to leave there.

Photos: Screenshots from Real-Time Air Quality Index Visual Map


Northern Smog Forcing Expats South to Cleaner Guangdong

Posted: 05/7/2014 12:11 pm

The air quality in the Pearl River Delta is very good, if not excellent. Due to rain, brisk air currents and anti-pollution measures, Shenzhen enjoyed 81 days that complied with air quality standards classified as good or fairly good in the first quarter of this year.

And what isn’t perfect can be fixed: While a joint report published by mainland and Hong Kong environmental departments has noted both improvements and setbacks in air quality throughout various districts of Foshan, Zhuhai has gone ahead and adopted the measure of restricting vehicle use on heavily polluted days.

Furthermore, the Guangdong cities of Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Huizhou and Zhongshan have all been named to a list of cities with the cleanest air in China. As a PRD resident, you likely know this, but you should know that everyone knows this, knowledge that may lead towards an oncoming trend.

While pollution has no direct benefits save the allegorical efforts to turn carbon particles from Beijing smog into diamonds, it remains that southern Chinese cities may stand to benefit from an exodus of highly-qualified expat workers fleeing the bad air quality of the north.

XKB reports that an unnamed study has said that 48% of foreign companies in China are dissatisfied with the state of pollution in 2014, compared with only 19% in 2010.  They then verify this report by two members of the Dragonfly HR recruitment company.

Philippe Comolet-Tirman, head of the Dragonfly Group offices in Beijing, does not draw a strong correlation between the effects of pollution upon employment recruitment at first:

“Chinese people aren’t that concerned with this problem, although I’ve noticed in the past few months that an increasing number of Chinese are wearing masks during smoggy days. But in the field of HR recruitment, there has been no influence. Compared to urban air quality, job applicants in China are more concerned with the type of company, salary, distance from work among other things.”

However, Comolet-Tirman does point out a recent trend:

“Those people (in Beijing) that have worked there for a number of years are now moving to Shanghai, Southern China, even to Europe.”

Fellow colleague Homeric De Sarth, the operating manager of Dragonfly in Shenzhen, verifies this trend:

“Southern China has done a great job in preserving the air quality. Although it’s not perfect, it’s still much better than it is up north. We have discovered that many people working in Beijing and Shanghai have moved down south.”

An exodus of Beijing expats was first reported upon this past January, so we’ll see if the trend of foreign workers in norther cities seeking the sunny climes of southern China continue.

Photo: Business Insider


Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Huizhou, Zhongshan: Chinese Cities With Cleanest Air

Posted: 04/29/2014 12:45 pm

zhuhai airResidents of the Pearl River Delta have long known this, but here’s the news to make it official: some of the cleanest cities in China to live are located right here in the PRD.

A report released by the Environmental Protection Ministry has named the Guangdong municipalities of Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Huizhou, and Zhongshan in a list of cities in China that have the best air quality.

The March report is a current list made of 74 cities in China that include areas of the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei tri-provincial area; the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl river delta, and also first-tier cities and provincial capitals around the country.

While other Chinese cities around the country only had an average of 62.3% of days in a year that conformed with environmental safety standards, Shenzhen and Zhuhai were among six cities to have a perfect 100% record of clean days during the entire year.

You can probably breathe the difference yourself, but here’s the statistical breakdown: The PRD had an average last year of 87.4% of days that conformed to environmental air quality regulations, while the average of days last year that exceeded environmental standards was 12.6%. The Pearl River Delta only had an average of “seriously polluted” days at 0.4%, and had none whatsoever of “very serious” days.

Breathe easy: The PRD is doing great when compared with only 35.1% of days that conformed to environmental standards for the tri-provincial area of Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei.

If it worries you upon hearing the leading cause of death in Guangzhou is lung cancer, here’s the full list of China’s cleanest cities to which you can make your move:

  1. Haikou, Hainan Province
  2. Lhasa, Tibet Automonous Region
  3. Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province
  4. Zhuhai, Guangdong Province
  5. Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
  6. Huizhou, Guangdong Province
  7. Guiyang, Guizhou Province
  8. Nanchang, Jiangxi Province
  9. Zhongshan, Guangdong Province
  10. Nanning, Guangxi Province

Photo: CNR


Guangzhou to Tax Construction Sites emitting too much dust

Posted: 04/18/2014 7:45 am

Taxing heavy polluters and coal-fired plants are common solutions to tackling China’s worsening air quality. Guangzhou, however, has opted to focus on a more unusual pollutant – flying dust.

Guangzhou Daily reported on April 17 that the city plans to levy a tax for excessive dust stirred up at construction sites. The policy will be introduced this August as part of Guangdong Province’s new fiscal measures to curb PM 2.5 emissions. The province vowed to lower its annual PM 2.5 concentration 15% by 2017.

Dust particles have become the latest subjects of taxation following research which demonstrated that they constitute 21% of the city’s total PM 2.5 emissions. Dust is a type of particulate matter, and when these particulates measure 2.5 micron or less, they are classified as PM 2.5.

RELATED: Expert says people in Guangzhou already have black lungs

PM 2.5 particulates are small enough to enter the lungs or bloodstream of humans and cause health damage including lung cancer, the leading cause of death in Guangzhou.

In December last year, Guangzhou had 792 ongoing construction projects, and 8 of them were singled out by the city’s environmental protection department for causing flying dust pollution and discharging excessive amounts of dust, the report said.

Compared with a RMB 8500 ($1,370) fine for these infractions, the environmental protection department believed the financial punishment was too lenient. The city has yet to finalize a set of standards for the fines, but according to the report, it will be based on the construction site’s size, its operational period and protection measures taken by its development company.

RELATED: China’s Pollution Wreaking Havoc on International Weather Patterns

The department said that any construction site measuring larger than 100,000 square meters should install CCTV cameras to monitor the amount of dust discharged and increase the frequency of spray surrounding roads with water to avoid raising dust.

Several construction sites will be selected to test out the results by August. If successful, the policy will be more broadly implemented by 2016.

Cantonese Speakers the Most Susceptible to Nose and Throat Cancer: Report
Smog? What Smog? Guangzhou Expert Says it’s All Fog… Really
Dusty, Grimy Smog Blankets the Pearl River Delta 

Home page: Dongchu Evening Post 


Pearl River Delta to tackle air pollution, seeks improvement by 2017

Posted: 02/17/2014 9:08 am

It’s taken some time, but it looks like Guangdong wants to get serious about air pollution. The Pearl River Delta region plans to improve its air quality by reducing its annual PM 2.5 concentration by 15% by the end of 2017, local Chinese newspaper Southern Daily has reported.

The announcement came from the Guangdong government after it formulated a detailed resolution to combat air pollution from 2014 to 2017. The province aims to cut the region’s PM 2.5 concentration from 2012’s 42 micrograms per cubic meter to 35.7 micrograms in 2017, closer to the national air quality standard of 35 micrograms, the report said.

PM 2.5 are toxic particles small enough to enter lungs and pollute a person’s blood streams, causing cardiovascular ailments, respiratory disease and lung cancer. Compared with air pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze River Delta, the PRD’s PM 2.5 readings are slightly better, Wu Dui, an air quality researcher with the China Meteorological Administration, was quoted as saying in the report. But that doesn’t mean overall pollution still isn’t a problem.

The report came only three days after the country’s State Council decided to offer a total of RMB10 billion ($1.65 billion) in financial incentives to reward cities and regions that make progress in air pollution control.

According to the Guangdong Meteorological Bureau, the province had an average of 43 smog days last year, one fewer day than in 2012. Guangzhou also had an average of 51 smog days in 2013, 20 days fewer than the year previous, China News reported on January 2.

Taoyuan in Jiangmen, Guangdong recorded a spike of PM 2.5 reading on January 5, which reached 257, according to statistics released by the Guangdong Environmental Protection Bureau earlier.

PM 2.5 measuring between 201 and 300 is considered “very unhealthy” by US standards. China’s air pollution causes premature deaths between 350,000 and 500,000 each year, according to China’s former health minister Chen Zhu.

Home page photo from Yangcheng Evening News 


Reasons to leave China: two prominent and long-term expats have thrown in the towel

Posted: 07/27/2012 5:22 pm

It seems life in China is always a bit of a balancing act: on the one hand, you get valuable international experience, meet amazing people, eat great food, and generally broaden your horizons substantially. Some who come to China find new skills, new careers, even a spouse. Then there’s the downside: polluted air, dangerous food, traffic, visa runs, and more. Usually the benefits of living in China outweigh the costs, but that has changed for a couple of prominent expats who wrote long essays this week about why they’re leaving China.

The first is Charlie Custer, who made his fame by blogging at ChinaGeeks.  Custer has spent several years in the country and was working on a documentary called Living with Dead Hearts, which delved into the sensitive issue of child kidnappings in China.  Still, he’s probably most famous for calling on CCTV Dialogue host Yang Rui to be fired after Yang unleashed a torrid vitriolic rant against foreign “trash” in Beijing. (You know you’re famous in China when Next Media Animation does a video with you in it.)

Still, Custer felt it was time to go, and left behind a blog post which was published after he was already in the sky and en route to the United States.  He said his two primary reasons for leaving are air quality and food safety, issues that became even more pressing as he and his wife discuss starting a family. But those weren’t the only two issues:

Of course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t affected by China’s political situation. For someone who truly believes China would be better served by a system that afforded its people, at the very least, a free press and the true rule of law, this has been a depressing couple of years. Depressing, soul-crushing and occasionally terrifying. But if I’m honest with myself, even with the political situation, I really think I’d be staying in Beijing if I felt like I could breathe safely.

I don’t think I’m alone there. I know plenty of families in Beijing, and it’s not my intent to criticize anyone else here; I’m just trying to explain my own rationale. But these are issues everyone here struggles with. And for those Chinese and foreign who, like me, are lucky enough to have the means to move elsewhere, some are going to make that choice. As the data on pollution gets clearer, perhaps more are going to make that choice. And while China has made some strides in agreeing to report things like PM2.5 publicly in some cities, I unfortunately don’t see the pollution problem disappearing anytime soon.

This isn’t really even China’s fault. OK, yes it is, but it’s also a fairly natural (if disgusting) stage of development. I don’t know if industrial-era London every looked quite this bad, but I gather it wasn’t the cleanest place ever. The thing is, though, would you choose to live in industrial revolution London?

That choice, I think, is part of China’s problem. As Chinese salaries go up and the education system gets better — and here’s hoping those things do improve despite what’s looking like a fairly ugly bump in the economic road — more and more people are going to have the same choice I have.

In fact, at least one other expat has made the same choice. Mark Kitto originally came to China in 1986, and might be known (by the longest-of-long term expats in the PRD) as the founder of the That’s magazine franchise (which includes That’s PRD – formerly That’s Guangzhou). Kitto has had his ups-and-downs in the country, but has pretty much lived here since his college days.  His story of how he lost the That’s magazine franchise has become legendary.

But he, too, is leaving. In a multiple-page story in the latest issue of Prospect, he says:

I wanted China to be the place where I made a career and lived my life. For the past 16 years it has been precisely that. But now I will be leaving.

I won’t be rushing back either. I have fallen out of love, woken from my China Dream.

Unfortunately this story is behind a paywall, although I have read a PDF version.  In it, Kitto describes the air and food quality issues, and also the fact his business – he runs a coffee shop in Moganshan in Shanghai – could be taken from him at any time. His primary concern though, he said, is for his children’s education.  He painted a bleak picture of China’s gaokao system and says the country’s schools are nothing more than testing factories.

He also observes China’s growth over the years; he said in the late 1980s (before Tiananmen Square) there was a spirit of community and optimism that turned to consumerism and individualism following the crackdown.

Kitto and Custer aren’t the first two expats to decide they’ve had enough; the question is whether this is a growing trend. Or, perhaps, China is meant for the young: once a spouse and kids are in the picture, the negative side of living here begins to outweigh the positive and China loses its lustre.

The headline of Kitto’s column does make a good point though. No matter how long we stay, or how good our Mandarin is: “You’ll never be Chinese.”

(The front page image is of Mark Kitto and his family. The image originally appeared in Prospect magazine).

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