Wednesday, January 15, 2014

China's Military-Style Attacks On Air Pollution

Recently, to control the pollution that's choking Beijing, demolition squads recently swooped down on the city of Tangshan and crippled a number of coal-burning steel plants.

As China's air pollution indexes spike to record highs, it's easy to conclude that the country's central government lacks resolve in dealing with the problem.  But the military-style operation in Tangshan suggests the opposite is true.

Air pollution is now the fourth-biggest health threat to Chinese people, according to a study published last year in the Lancet, a British medical journal. About 1.2 million people died prematurely in China in 2010 as a result of air pollution, the study showed. Chinese government data show that lung cancer is now the leading cause of death from malignant tumors. Many of those dying are nonsmokers.

Tangshan is ground zero in this escalating health crisis. On average last year, the air breathed by its 7.6 million people was considered hazardous to health for five days out of seven, according to China's own official standards. That makes Tangshan one of the filthiest cities in China—and thus the world.

Its noxious emissions, combined with those from other gritty cities surrounding Beijing, helped produced the "airpocalypse" a year ago when the Chinese capital experienced air pollution more than 70 times above the level considered safe in the U.S.

Last year, a National Action Plan targeted massive spending of $275 billion on antipollution measures over the next five years until 2017. Over that period, the government has targeted a 25% reduction in PM 2.5 levels in the region around Beijing.  (WSJ, 1/14/2014)

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