Air Pollution levels spiked this summer in Beijing. Just how much more serious is this year’s air pollution?
This summer’s spate of smoggy days
has many Beijingers wondering if the city’s post-Olympic pollution progress is backsliding.
According to statistics released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the city’s air quality worsened
for the first time since 2005. Through mid-August, official statistics show a 4.5-point spike
in the average Air Pollution Index
, roughly a five percent increase over the same period last year, and throughout July there were eight fewer blue sky days. “From a health perspective, the pollution levels in Beijing didn’t change significantly from 2009-2010, so residents shouldn’t be experiencing anything too different,” says Vance Wagner
, an adviser to China’s Vehicle Emission Control Center at the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
The downturn suggests more radical changes are needed to meet China’s targets for particulate matter, let alone those of the World Health Organization. “If the year ends and Beijing’s air quality still has not shown improvement, then I think and hope this will catalyze even stronger pollution control measures
,” says Wagner.
Government reports show average air quality has dipped across 113 major Chinese cities this year. The official explanation pins the downturn on sandstorms and steamy weather
, but Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, was quoted as saying a spate of construction projects and an increasing number of cars on the road
are also to blame.
To alleviate matters, Beijing recently announced a collaboration between six provinces and municipalities for a regional air pollution management organization
, which may help address the large portion of pollution that blows in from outside. “Beijing continues to implement a host of progressive policies targeting pollution control,” Wagner said. “But achieving absolute pollution emission reductions is extremely challenging when the economy is growing at near double-digit rates and over 1,500 new vehicles
are registered every day in Beijing.”