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Even Beijing’s Mayor Says the City is Unlivable

Posted: 01/27/2015 8:10 am

beijing smogIf waking up every day to grey, dreary mornings in Beijing is getting you down, you’re not alone. During a presentation at the 14th annual People’s Representative Conference, the Mayor of Beijing, Wang Anshun, conceded that “Beijing is not a livable city“.

Here’s what he had to say:

In establishing a top-tier, internationalized livable and harmonious city, Beijing is currently establishing a system of standards, something that is very important. At the present time however, Beijing is not a livable city.


There was no shortage of days in 2014 where the PM 2.5 reading, which measures particulate matter in the air, was above 200, considered hazardous. Wang blamed the city’s pollution problem to a massive influx of vehicles and an uneven distribution of industrial factories. Currently, 71.8 percent of all factories in Beijing are concentrated in just six of the city’s districts.

To address these concerns, Beijing got rid of 476,000 vehicles last year that failed to meet emission standards. The city also dismantled 36 trading centers and closed 392 factories.

Yet, as bad as the city’s air quality has become, smog is not the Mayor’s top priority. He’s more concerned with over population:

Seeing that there is a mad rush of people flocking to the city, population control remains Beijing’s number one problem.

And so while the mayor’s speech included buzzwords like “living standards” and “greenification”, overpopulation sits at the top of the list. At 21.5 million residents, Beijing continues to grow at a feverish pace. There were 368,000 new arrivals to the city last year, and despite the poor air quality, the city is projecting similar numbers for 2015. The city has become so dense that its western area is packed with 25,700 people per square kilometer.

Wang continues to promise change, arguing his mandate is the people’s mandate:

As the economy achieves a new state of being, so does society. The government should not be afraid of being critical as this reflects the will of the people.

Photo: People’s Daily Online


Pollution in Guangzhou Goes from Bad to Worse to Start 2015

Posted: 01/23/2015 9:07 am

Guangzhou recorded its worst pollution of the year so far on Wednesday. All of the city’s air monitoring stations had different readings, but ten of them passed the serious pollution level, New Express Daily reported on January 22.

“[Wednesday] was the worst polluted day in Guangzhou since the start of the new year,” said Huang Zuzhao, deputy head of the city’s environment monitoring centre.

The Pearl River Delta, in particular, suffered severe smog with several air stations in Foshan recording PM 2.5 levels higher than 200. The World Health Organization recommends daily exposure of not more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre over a 24-hour period, and any reading above 200 is considered “heavily polluted” by China’s national standards.

Guangdong’s current cold weather, static air and pollutants accumulated over several days have all contributed to the city’s worsening air quality, the report said.

Photos: Reinhard Krause/Courtesy Reuters


Environmental Staff in China Spray Air Quality Monitors with Water to Make Readings More Acceptable

Posted: 01/21/2015 2:00 pm

Desperate times call for desperate measures. When Hanzhong, in Shaanxi Province, was confronted with off-the-chart PM 2.5 readings, officials at the City’s Environmental Protection Bureau did what any respectable scientist would do: they altered the readings by spraying the air quality monitors with water from a fire hose.

One blogger happened to catch the Bureau in the act, snapping a photo of the scene, and posting it online. The photo immediately became quite a discussion piece on online forums. User 业精于勤 said, “This is covering one’s ear while stealing a bell?” alluding to a Chinese idiom that describes trying to conceal the truth while committing a devious act.

Authorities at the Bureau denied the accusations, claiming the fire hose was not pointed at the air quality monitors, despite the photograph above clearly illustrating water being sprayed at the air quality monitors. However, authorities were willing to admit that, in the past, they may have used water trucks around the city to spray mass quantities of water in an effort to reduce heavy smog, according to an interview with Nandu.

While there appears to be no evidence to suggest that spraying air quality monitors, or the streets for that matter, has any impact on pollution readings, someone somewhere clearly believes it does. Let’s hope that going forward, the Environmental Protection Bureau takes a more constructive approach to addressing air pollution.

Photos: Internet



Photos of China’s Harrowing Pollution Problem, Taken from the Sky

Posted: 01/19/2015 9:30 am

smog seen from airplanes china air pollution

While it’s hard not to notice China’s air pollution problem from the ground, it’s an entirely different experience observing the smog from the air. When there are no buildings and limited visibility, the severity of the situation quickly becomes even more apparent.

A reporter with Chinese Business News, and frequent flier, has spent three years compiling aerial photographs taken from the window seat of an airplane. The photos show huge clouds of smog enveloping various cities around China.

Here’s a small collection along with notes about where and when each photo was taken:

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionTaken in Tianjin on a flight to Shenyang on December 17, 2014 (above).

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionTaken during descent into Shenyang on China Eastern flight MU2263 from Xi’an, on March 25, 2014.

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionTaken during descent into Xi’an on China Southern Airlines flight CZ6469 on March 19, 2014.

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionTaken after a stopover in Shijiazhuang on Beijing Capital Airlines flight JD5304 from Changchun to Xi’an on January 28, 2014.

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionTaken on descent into Xianyang Airport on Beijing Capital Airlines flight JD5304 from Changchun to Xi’an on December 31, 2013.

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionTaken above Shijiazhuang Airport on Beijing Capital Airlines flight JD5304 from Changchun to Xi’an on December 31, 2013.

smog seen from airplanes china air pollution

Taken on descent into Xi’an on Southern China Airlines flight CZ6469 from Shenyang to Xi’an via Taiyuan on Mar 19, 2014.

smog seen from airplanes china air pollutionShot after taking off from Changchun Longjia Airport in which a haze can be seen enveloping the city in the distance on November 11, 2013.

If you’d like to see more pictures, here’s another collection from the beginning of last year.

Photos: Shijiazhuang Weiba


Beijing Suffering from Heavy Pollution Today as AQI Reading Goes “Beyond Index”

Posted: 01/15/2015 4:01 pm

beijing smog air pollutionThe smog has rolled into Beijing again today, and it’s bad. “How bad?” you ask? It depends whom you ask. While the US embassy is reporting the air quality is so bad it is literally off the scale, the Chinese authorities has only issued a yellow air pollution alert.

Readings from the US embassy in Beijing say the quality of the air today is immeasurable because it is “beyond index”, meaning that the readings are over an AQI of 500, the standard previously set as the upper limit for recordings.  In contrast, the highest AQI reading published by Chinese sources so far has been 430.

Although the US embassy is sounding the alarm, no red alert has been issued thus far. The yellow alert was issued early this morning at 12:25am soon after the city received its first snowfall of the year.

Among other things, a red alert for air pollution would close public schools and implement a policy that would effectively take half the cars off Beijing roads, something that was done in preparation for the APEC summit last year and was responsible for “APEC blue” skies.

With visibility reduced to 500 meters, motorists are urged to be cautious to avoid getting into any traffic collisions due to the smog.

Chinese news outlets are reporting the situation as “severe”, but also point out that a category 3-4 wind is expected to blow the smog away later tonight.

beijing smog air pollutionbeijing smog air pollution


Photos: Weibo, CRI


Beijing Rings In The New Year With An Old Friend: Heavy Smog

Posted: 01/5/2015 1:41 pm

There is nothing new about Beijing’s biggest problem: smog. In fact, the city ushered in the new year with hazardous, smothering grey particulate matter. The air pollution in the capital from January 1 to 3 was so bad that at one point PM2.5 particles measured more than 200 micrograms per cubic meter, about eight times the level recommend by the World Health Organisation.

The WHO recommends daily exposure of not more than 25 micrograms per cubic metre over a 24-hour period, and any reading above 200 is considered “heavily polluted” by China’s national standards.

Southern Beijing suffered the most. The levels of PM2.5 in six districts including Tongzhou, Daxing and Xizhuang all exceeded that level on January 3, reported New Beijing Daily. The city’s meteorology centre issued a yellow alert for the smog on Saturday and said it would continue into Sunday.

The good news – at least temporarily – is the city’s air quality is improving a bit today and might even get better tomorrow as a blast of cold air arrives.

But prepare yourself for more smog that will revisit the city and other industrial provinces in the country later this year. One expert predicted the city’s air quality problem won’t be solved for another 20 to 30 years.

Photos: AP


Chinese Report of Auspicious Phoenix Cloud Dismissed as “Feudal Superstition”

Posted: 12/29/2014 10:30 am

phoenix sunset beijing symbol superstitionWhen you look up at the clouds, what do you see? A lamb, a castle perhaps? For many people in Beijing last week, the answer was a “fiery phoenix”, one of China’s mythological animals.

But seeing is just the half of it. For those not familiar with the significance of certain symbolic omens and divine signs in China, according to a report in the People’s Daily Online, the “phoenix cloud” means that China is doing great as a country:

Ancient people believed that when peace and prosperity was achieved, a phoenix would appear in the sky… Quick, make a wish!

phoenix sunset beijing symbol superstitionNotwithstanding the cloud’s resemblance to a phoenix, some netizens took offence to the report, and criticized the People’s Daily Online for using superstition to toe the Party line:

Here’s my criticism: the media is blowing this way out of proportion. People’s Daily wrote, “As it is said, ancient people thought that when peace and prosperity was achieved, a phoenix would appear.” Darn it, are you raising feudal superstitions? Tomorrow, you may see a dead fish by the side of the lake! Quickly, take a look and you’ll see that there is a note inside the belly of the fish upon which is written: death to the entire family of those who kiss ass.

If anyone else had said so I’d just as soon forget about it, but for the majestic People’s Daily Online to say with one breath that this is an auspicious day–what is the meaning of this? Do you believe in feudal superstitions?

One commentator lacked as much subtlety as the People’s Daily Online:

Hahaha! This is the ironclad evidence to prove People’s Daily Online are wumaos!

Some netizens pointed out that Beijing is usually under the influence of another kind of atmospheric phenomenon:

The smog is too formidable [stiflelaugh.emoji]

Can you tell me, People’s Daily Online, what does this smog represent?

phoenix sunset beijing symbol superstitionSome people took People’s Daily Online at their word:

Wishing Party officials a long life.

Does this really signify a flourishing age of prosperity?

While others knew exactly who to thank for the blessed event:

Ever since Uncle Xi (Jinping) took office, good things have happened in succession [heart.emoji]

Is this the Will of Heaven as seen through the anti-corruption efforts of Uncle Xi?

phoenix sunset beijing symbol superstitionCynicism aside, the appearance of a cloud that looks like a fiery phoenix was emotionally-gripping for some commentators:

Mysterious! During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, I had also taken a picture of a cloud that looked a lot like a phoenix [floatingcloud.emoji]. At the time, I was too scared to tell anyone about it, it blew my mind. [gatheraround.emoji]


Others took the opportunity to make a wish, just as People’s Daily Online suggested:

Wishing the whole family luck and good health. [letsgo.emoji]

What could such a sign mean? How should humanity interpret the Phoenix cloud? One commentator tells us one thing that can be known for sure:

Any (girl) born on this day will be called “Such-and-such Phoenix”

Photos: People’s Daily Online, Weibo (1, 2, 3, 4)


These Six Wind Corridors Will Blow All of Beijing’s Smog Away

Posted: 11/24/2014 4:59 pm

beijing wind corridors air pollution smogForget, you know, reducing coal burning or limiting traffic, Beijing has found another way to get rid of smoggy days: wind corridors. The city is now building six pathways for bad air to be pushed out of the city, thus returning the capital to glorious “APEC Blue“.

Some of the wind corridors have been identified as the botanical gardens, Kunming Lake, Kunyu River, Yuyuan Spring, and Qiansanmen, as noted on the map above.

Wind corridors are passages that allow for wind to sweep through a city by removing obstacles that would block it.

READ: Beijing Says New Wind Corridors May Finally Solve The City’s Notorious Pollution Problem

The wind corridors on the outskirts of the city will “attract” wind, which will help blow the smog somewhere else. 

But not everybody is optimistic. Environmental protection expert Peng Yingdeng notes that the preliminary plans for wind corridors are “too perfect”, and explains the difficulty in implementing them:

The problem mainly comes in changes that are made while trying to implement this plan. It’s not uncommon for [needs of] the city’s ecology to give way to economic development.

The use of wind corridors is a popular idea that other Chinese cities are also looking to implement. Shanghai, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Zhuzhou, Guiyang, Shaoxing, and Fuzhou are all researching the use of wind corridors.

Plans for wind corridors in Tianjin have not yet been confirmed. Tianjin lies south-east of Beijing, the same place many of these wind corridors are pointing.


Photo: Sohu News


Guangdong Vows to Clean Up the Air

Posted: 11/21/2014 2:00 pm

smog guangdong air pollutionWith the exception of Guangzhou, the Pearl River Delta has some of the cleanest air in China, and it’s about to get even better as strict air quality regulations have been announced for 2017 through the “Guangdong Provincial Responsible Clean Air Verification Act”.

To ensure compliance, local officials will be fined and held accountable if the regulations are not met. For clarity, the following criteria must be met to be in compliance with the new regulations:

  • PM 2.5 2.5 levels in 2017 must be same as those in 2012;
  • Guangzhou, Foshan and Dongguan must reduce their PM 2.5 levels by 20 percent;
  • Shenzhen, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing must reduce their PM 2.5 emissions by 15 percent
  • Zhuhai and Huizhou must both have an annual PM 2.5 level of 35 milligram per square meter

Amid plans for a PRD mega-city, talk of reforming hukou restrictions upon migrant workers, and the strengthening of Guangdong factories through robotization, we’re waiting to see if the province’s growing urbanization will have an impact upon its air quality.



Ignore the Smog Beijingers, City Says “APEC Blue” Could Become The Norm

Posted: 11/20/2014 3:21 pm

apec blue pollution air smogThis year’s APEC summit saw host city Beijing boasting beautiful blue skies that were a change from the smog that usually hounds the nation’s capital. And despite the extreme measures required to reach this goal, it appears “APEC blue” is something that Beijing officials want to institute as a long-term policy while the city is currently under yet another smog attack.

This mechanism will remain in place over a long time after the conference is over,” Zhang Dawei, a director with the Beijing Environmental Monitoring Center, said.

Among the temporary measures used to improve Beijing’s air quality during the APEC conference was reducing carbon emissions by limiting vehicle traffic. This is now being considered as a permanent remedy to the city’s notoriously polluted skies. Local officials are even considering charging drivers a “congestion tax”.

Beijing’s plan is to continue to introduce policies aimed at reducing the local PM 2.5 level to 60 by 2017. That is ambitious, as another report suggests Beijing’s air quality will only begin to improve in 30 years.

The Beijing Environmental Statistics Bureau reports PM 2.5 levels during the 11 days of the APEC dropped 30 percent, and were the lowest such levels recorded this year.

Currently, Beijing has an AQI level of 348, and is under a yellow warning alert.

apec blue pollution air smogRelated:

Photo: People’s Daily

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