Balancing act between economy and environment
Over the weekend, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in North China, known as Jing-Jin-Ji, saw the resurgence of alarming air pollution, with some forecast saying heavy smog could be on the way.
We have experienced relatively “clean blue sky” since last winter, compared with two or more years ago when the air quality index at times crossed 500.
In recent years, the strong public reaction to poor air quality reflects the increasing public awareness about the harm caused by air pollution and people’s demand for “blue sky”. The same was evident this month when forecasts signaled the return of smog.
But the air quality has not worsened for no reason. According to experts, the surrounding areas of Beijing are still home to many highly polluting industries such as coal power plants, iron and steel factories, as well as chemical plants. Motor vehicles, particularly heavy trucks running on diesel, are also a major source of pollutants. Statistics show that sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission intensity in Jing-Jin-Ji is 3.6 times higher than the national average, while that of nitrogen oxides (NOX) is four times higher.
In winter, the heating supply, coal burning of households and seasonal stalk burning in Beijing and its surrounding areas emit tons of pollutants resulting in the return of smog. In Beijing, according to the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau, mobile sources contributed 45 percent of local PM2.5 in 2017.
Over last few years, the governments at the national and local levels have taken very active measures to clean the air and have achieved success. The most pro-active measure is the nationwide environmental protection inspection launched by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.