China’s “All-out-effort” against Smog Days

by Aynsley Chaneco on February 19, 2014

 

People riding bikes and wearing face masks through smog in China

Today in Boston, and throughout the New England area, society is experiencing the occasional snow day with exciting school closings, plowing of streets and sidewalks from piled high snow, and staying indoors away from possible accidents and illness. Now, imagine that instead of having school canceled because of snow days, it’s shutdown because of a “smog day.”

In China, although they don’t experience the typical snow day, they have been suffering continuous “smog days.” Millions of people are forced to stay indoors and roads are closed as the density of the smog is too dangerous for drivers and its toxicity poses as a major threat for the health of all. Surgical facial masks have become normal daily attire as inhalation of the smog has drastically increased the risks for respiratory disease and lung cancer. As this toxic smog has become China’s number one public health concern, what’s their plan of action? How are they going to “plow” away pollution? As of this year, China’s government is taking an initiative with an “all-out-effort” plan of action against this dangerous environmental degradation.

For several years China has been literally and metaphorically tainted with the reputation as the “world’s biggest emitting nation” due to their rising prevalence of pollution. One of China’s industries that pollution has taken a drastic toll on is farming. Agriculture and cultivation is an essential business in China where the main staples are vegetables and crops such as rice, cabbage, and carrots. Such a business is heavily dependent on the environment, and with the environmental degradation farmers’ are living on now, both their businesses and their consumers are living in misfortune. The toxins infecting the farmers’ soils causes the crops to wilt and spoil, creating a waste of product and loss of money, while families are at a loss for edible food.  Although the polluted environment is the superficial cause of China’s agriculture, the underlying cause is ultimately the industrial factories surrounding farms and plantations.

Numerous factories in close vicinity to farmlands have created a suffocating circle of emitted hazardous wastes, toxins and heavy metals. Certain heavy metals like lead and chromium have been seeping into China’s wastewater and soil, contaminating crops. Another heavy metal, cadmium, has become highly detrimental and excessive in the farming industry. Consuming excessive amounts of cadmium can ultimately lead to organ failure, weakening of the bones and cancer. With the rising levels of heavy metals and pollutants in the air, lung cancer has been the major contributing cancer in China as 600,000 new cases arise each year, leaving dark skies and black lungs. Together, these heavy metals like lead, chromium and cadmium, have contaminated approximately one-sixth of China’s fertile farmland and more than thirteen million tons of crops harvested each year have been infected by soil pollution. A drastic impact like this is devastating for the economic wellbeing of farmers with collapses in supply and demand, leaving many with pink slips as their businesses get shutdown by pollution. On top of that, the fear only grows as the government refuses to disclose any information regarding the details of pollution, leaving farmers and consumers in the dark.

During 2013, the area in China that contributed most to the uprising on pollution was the Hebei province, the center of the nation’s steel industry. Hebei is known to be the home for seven of ten of its most polluted cities where its pollution has acted as a communicable disease, spreading to neighboring cities like Beijing and Tianjin. China’s government has targeted Hebei as a major obstacle in the war against pollution. However, although Hebei is a massive polluter of the steel industries, it’s also a massive benefactor for employers and government officials who have professional ties with the industry. Therefore, many officials would rather keep the industries alive and share the profits instead of shutting down those businesses, leaving lighter pockets for them and empty pockets for the employees. Yet despite these officials, the government and several organizations have an “all-out-effort” plan underway.

China has taken a new revolution this year with it’s “all-out-effort” initiative in fighting against pollution and improving air quality. Within this past January, the government has decided to spend 520 billion yuan, which is equivalent to $85.8 billion, in order to take precautionary measures against global warming. However, even with this much money, it isn’t sufficient enough as it only covers about a fifth of what China needs for supplies, programs and emergency measures to make a significant impact on the climate change. Back in Beijing, where the coal mining and burning fossil fuels are highly concentrated, the mayor of the city has decided to pledge 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in order to make improvements in air quality as well as to cutting coal use by 2.6 million tons. Such heavy coal burning in this city with dense population has kept children in school and people off the roads due to heavy smog days, with one smog day occurring almost every week last year. Also, in Hebei, officials there as well are planning to reduce the amount of steel produced be 15 million tons this year to stand up against the pollution crisis. With China’s efforts into pledging money to help the environment as well as to make their own cuts and budgets in high-end industrial businesses like in Beijing and Hebei, there efforts will definitely help improve China’s environment and ensure a healthier lifestyle for society.

Web Sources

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/22/china-pollution-330-billion_n_4643276.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/21/china-pollution-us_n_4635561.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-chinas-war-on-bad-air-government-decision-to-release-data-gives-fresh-hope/2014/02/02/5e50c872-8745-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/beijing-pollution_n_4672222.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/world/asia/good-earth-no-more-soil-pollution-plagues-chinese-countryside.html

http://world.time.com/2013/10/21/kids-get-smog-day-as-pollution-shuts-down-chinese-city/print/

Image Source

http://timeglobalspin.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/rtx14iax.jpg?w=720


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