Over 90 per cent of Chinese cities fail pollution standards

Over 90 per cent of Chinese cities fail pollution standards
22 January 2015
By Joanna Chiu

Car-buying limits spark national debate in China - © Stephan Scheuer, dpa

Beijing (dpa) - Over 90 per cent of cities in China that report air quality data exceeded the government's pollution limit last year, according to research released Thursday.

The average annual concentration of PM2.5 particles in 190 cities in 2014 was 60.8 micrograms per cubic metre. Only 18 cities came under the national limit of 35 micrograms per cubic metre, according to a report released Thursday by environmental campaign group Greenpeace and the China Air Quality Index monitoring organization.

Of the 10 cities with the worst air pollution, seven of them were in Hebei province, according to the report, which was based on government data collected hourly and throughout the year. PM2.5 concentration - referring to particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres - pose serious health hazards because they can embed deep in the lungs.

Many cities in China are notorious for their winter smog, which is caused by a combination of air pollution and weather conditions. The US embassy in Beijing recorded a PM2.5 peak of 900 micrograms in January 2013. The prolonged bout of high pollution that year prompted China to pursue a national plan on anti-pollution measures.

Li Yan, Head of Climate and Energy at Greenpeace East Asia, said local governments can take immediate steps to protect people on particularly smoggy days, such as restrictions on factory production and car use, and a better warning system to advise people to stay inside. "In many cities, elementary schools don't stop their outdoor events even in heavy smog, because the warning system is not effective," said Li.

Car-buying limits spark national debate in China - © Peter Kneffel, dpa

On Thursday, prominent Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke released a short film - commissioned by Greenpeace - entitled "Smog Journeys," on the effects of air pollution and coal on young families. "I started noticing the smog issue back in the 90's, but back then there was no such a word as 'smog'. I just felt that the air became really terrible, dust flying all over the place, making people's everyday lives extremely inconvenient," Jia said. "[The film] is meant to point out that no one gets to be different when it comes to smog. No matter what jobs we do, it is still a problem we all face," he said.

Source: dpa.