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We cannot just wait for winds to clear smog

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The following article is translated from well-received blog article by freelance commentator Wang Chuantao (王传涛).

The heavy smog now sprawling in mid-east China has affected an area of over 1 million square kilometers, according to data from the remote sensing satellites for air quality monitoring released by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The southern part of the North China Plain, middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, and Hubei and Hunan provinces are especially choked by the smog, said Li Qing from the Satellite Environment Center. And the area covered by the pollution is even larger this time than the previous one that lasted from January 10 to 15.

“Between January 31 and February 2, the area would encounter a medium to strong cold air activity, so starting from January 31, the widespread smog would recede and finally clear,” said He Lifu, chief reporter of the Central Meteorological Station (Beijing News, January 29).

I would first share my personal feelings about the recent air quality problem. Since entering the year 2013, my daughter could hardly find her “grandpa sunny 太阳公公” (referring to sun) in the sky. Even for the few days when we got to see the sun, clear blue skies were out of sight.

It’s obviously not convenient for families like ours who use solar water heaters. So, my wife has decided to buy an electric one to cope with the “solar deficiency”. I myself check PM2.5 readings almost every day to get a better idea about pollution. For the past one month, in the city I live, the best day we had was rated as “moderately polluted”.

With thick smog hitting Beijing four times in one month, it’s not difficult to understand how badly the lives of the city's residents have been affected. In fact, the smog could not only harm people's physical health, it could also create a gloomy feeling about life and work.

Fortunately, a gust of cold air will soon hit the north of China and disperse the air-borne pollutants.

But the question is, though, that would waiting for big winds always be our only solution? What would we do if there was not wind? To be more specific, before the arrival of the relieving wind, do we really have no other choices or resorts? And, what would the government do to deal with the next such crisis?

In my opinion, we could make efforts in the following aspects instead of just sitting and waiting for the wind.

Emergency measures

When the thick smog appears, the most urgent task is to disperse it. The relevant governmental departments should immediately call off polluting plants inside or outside the cities. Thus, the total emission of air pollutants will be put under control.

In the cities, demolition and construction sites should be temporarily shut down given that dust is one of the main sources of pollution. The surface of urban roads must be sprinkled with water to maintain a good environment.

If artificial rainfall can be allowed, it should be done immediately. And the hospitals should make proper arrangements for all patients with respiratory problems.

Controlling polluters

The Chinese government is advised to shut down or move away polluting plants in Beijing and its neighboring areas, just like what they did several years ago for the 2008 Olympics.

To achieve the goal, they must have the resolve to ignore a possible drop in the GDP growth rate. Besides, they should give some serious thought to imposing the restrictions on vehicle use in the cities which have not been applied. Vehicle exhaust poses a huge threat to air quality.

And some high-polluting vehicles should definitely be scrapped. Another important step is related to the quality of gasoline. Some media reported that China’s gasoline products are usually of low quality and thus emit sulphide exceeding certain limits. In that case, the national oil companies like Sinopec or PetroChina must be required to raise their product quality.

In ancient agricultural societies, people depended on the nature to make a living. When the rain and wind arrived on time, they could embrace a bountiful harvest, but when the natural disasters struck, famine could barely be avoided.

But in modern days, we can not continue to depend on the nature to clear away pollution. If that’s our attitude, the outcome would be disastrous. Our authorities must take an initiative to curb pollution so we can enjoy a crystal blue sky again.










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