Remember how a few days ago, the entire media and popullation of China was outraged by the smog covering a significant part of China, including Beijing ? The extent of the smog was so big you could easily see it from outer space. Well, predictions claimed the smog will dissipate in a few days, but this wasn’t the case – as a matter of fact, it is intensifying.
Beijing authorities stepped up their health warnings as thick smog blanketed the Chinese capital and large areas of the country. The city’s 20 million people were urged to shut windows, drink plenty of water and eat a “balanced diet” – especially the children, elder people, and the one suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.
Meanwhile, the China media and internet community, not exactly known for being vocal (and not exactly allowed to be vocal), are starting to make their voices heard; a campaign for clean air legislation by real estate tycoon and Internet blogger Pan Shiyi is gathering pace. His major economic and political influence is also backed by the popular support he has – over 14 million followers on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Pan spearheaded a campaign in 2011 to force Beijing to release transparent details on levels of tiny air particles known as PM2.5.
This campaign was also supported by reform-minded investor Xue Manzi, who has 10 million followers on Weibo, who also has over 10 million followers on Weibo. Public anger continues to grow as the sight of pedestrians wearing masks is becoming more and more common.
“I have lived in Beijing for four years and I have not seen it this bad before,” said domestic cleaner Jiang Hua, who is originally from the central province of Henan. “It just seems so prolonged.”
According to data released by the US embassy, air quality index reading for Beijing stood at 338; a reading of over 150 is believed to be unhealthy, and over 300 is considered hazardous. This is the price China has to pay for their incredibly accelerated industrial and technological development; this is what happens when you grow too fast, without pacing things, and without paying attention to the environment. China’s massive industrialization is greatly dependant on coal, one of the most polluting sources of energy available at the moment. It remains to be seen if they will learn anything from this, or if they will just continue the same way.