A Different War
As a result of its galloping growth, China is now combating pollution on a war footing.
Pollution has reached dangerous levels in China.
Earlier this year, a documentary was released in China which earned a 100 million views in less than two days. Called ‘ Under the Dome,’ the documentary was the brainchild of investigative journalist Chai Jing. It took a long, hard look at the air pollution problem in China. Needless to say, this is an issue the Chinese are gravely concerned about, as they should be. Air pollution in the country has reached toxic levels and is taking lives. It is estimated that approximately 2.5 million Chinese die from effects of air pollution every year.
Around the same time, the Chinese environment ministry released the results of an assessment of air quality of the 74 biggest cities in the country. Out of these, only 8 met the basic air quality standards in 2014 which, as the official statement pointed out, was an improvement on the previous year when only 3 had met the standards. The most polluted cities in China are in the northeast where the coal mining districts are located. It isn’t just the air. The quality of nearly 60% groundwater has also been termed as poor or very poor by environmental researchers and, according to an official report, nearly one fifth of the country’s farmland is contaminated by heavy metals. The government has admitted to these being ‘cancer villages, because there is an unprecedented incidence of cancer there as a result of pollution from industrial plants.
For decades now, China has pursued relentless economic growth, ignoring the dire warnings about its deteriorating environment and the cost of producing huge amounts of energy to power its cities and industries. The pollution problem has now become too big to ignore and the Chinese government has pledged its commitment to cutting down emissions across the board.
However, it is not a simple case of reducing one or two harmful emissions. The air above Chinese cities is a toxic mix of chemicals. These chemicals interact with each other in a variety of ways to form harmful compounds. Reducing one could lead to an increase in others or to changes in weather patterns and, according to experts, short-term interventions are no longer the solution. A long-term dedicated policy is needed to monitor air quality and composition to map the