Beijing has the “best” air quality among all major cities in northern China — though that news isn’t likely to make residents breathe any easier.
Over the first three months of the year, air quality readings from 28 cities in northern China (Beijing and Tianjin, along with cities in Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi, Henan) were compared in a report by the nation’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, and Beijing’s air came out the cleanest.
Which might come as a bit of surprise to those of us who were around earlier this year and remember that Beijing looked like this in January:
And then like this in February:
While the skies really cleared up in March — as China’s top legislative meetings went into session — they have since turned hazy once again.
But during that dark time, breathing was still worse for you in every other city in the same region. Unsurprisingly, Hebei’s air was rated the worst with its capital, Shijiazhuang, being ranked at the bottom. The average PM 2.5 reading for all 28 cities during the three-month period was 103 micrograms per cubic meters, more than quadruple the WHO safety standard. At readings above 100, China recommends that “active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.”
Recently, China’s capital city has made a show of attempting to clean up its air, setting up a special “smog squad” that arrested someone for air pollution for the first time (a worker at a local heating company) and closing down the city’s last large coal power plant. This year, Beijing has vowed to reduce its average PM2.5 level to 60.
Meanwhile, China’s environment ministry has accused thousands of polluters of faking emissions data and resisting checks, something that local governments have turned a blind eye towards. In response, the ministry announced on Wednesday that over 5,000 inspectors would be dispatched in a year-long investigation into the sources of air pollution in northern China in what is being called China’s “largest ever smog inspection.”
This all follows Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s promise “to make our skies blue again” in March. Something that South Koreans would also welcome.
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