While China’s environmental pollution policies are finally seeing some results in the East, western China’s air pollution is worsening as a result.
Although geography accounts for some differences, as in the case of Shanghai and Beijing, the government’s “Action Plan for Air Pollution Prevention and Control” may be to blame for western provinces’ unfortunate climb in air pollutant measurements over the last year.
Stricter standards for emissions regulations have improved the situation in provinces across eastern China. However, factories seeking to avoid the restrictive policies in the East have brought more coal-driven power plants to the western region. Greenpeace’s analysis of data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection found that 75% of licenses for such plants were granted in central or western China last year.
The numbers behind Chinese air pollution’s east-west imbalance are disturbing. The Greenpeace report found that across 362 Chinese cities, PM2.5 levels had fallen by 8.8% since the first quarter of 2015, with Beijing and Shanghai bringing their counts down by 27% and 12% respectively. But, at the same time, 91 of 355 cities did see an increase in PM2.5 levels. 69 of those are located in central and western China.
Dong Liansai of Greenpeace East Asia would like to see Beijing stop this trend:
The findings show that the government’s measures to curb air pollution in eastern China’s key regions work but now is not the time to selectively implement these policies. They must be introduced across the country to ensure clean air for all.
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region experienced the worst of this shift in balance over 2015. Exacerbated by necessary heating during last year’s harsh winter, the cities with the country’s five highest PM2.5 counts were all in Xinjiang. The capital, Urumqi, had the nation’s third highest rating, 160.3 micrograms per cubic meter. Kashgar holds the uncoveted top spot with a score of 276.1, nearly doubling since 2015.
These statistics far outpace the national average, 60.7 micrograms per cubic meter, which already fails to meet the country’s air quality standard of 35. Even more unsettling is that all of these numbers disappoint the World Health Organization’s suggested rating of just 10 micrograms per cubic meter.
But hey, at least Mark Zuckerberg got to enjoy his morning jog.
Hopefully, the next one he takes will be in Kashgar.
By Matthew Patel