Image credit: Shreyans Bhansali.
There has been a marked improvement in the provision of air quality data in a number of Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. However, NGOs suggest that the government could be making better use of real-time air pollution reports, and some cities lack any reports whatsoever.
Compared with the organization’s last report based on 2010 data, Chinese cities have made significant progress, said Ma Jun, the founding director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection advises (but does not compel) cities to apply comprehensive air quality monitoring standards, particularly checking levels of PM2.5 (particles which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases), ozone and carbon dioxide in the air.
It’s also necessary for the government to come up with an alert system or emergency mechanism for heavy-pollution days, Ma said. The public should be warned against being outdoors on those days, and schools should cancel outdoor activities, he said.
“Authorities should not only release the real-time reports on the Internet, but should also provide more user-friendly and straightforward descriptions of the air quality,” said Ma.
Guangzhou, which was singled out by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs as the “most improved” city with regard to pollution transparency, now issues residents air-quality information via coloured maps and publishes real-time data on its Wiebo account.
A total of 29 cities, including Zhengzhou in Central China’s Henan province and Southwest China’s Chongqing, had not set up air-pollution reports as of Aug 31, the survey said.
The US Consulate in Shanghai began publishing its own air quality reports in June 2012, much to the consternation of local authorities.
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