Air pollution in Northern China reached record concentrations around Christmas and New Years’ Eve. On the first day of 2017 the smog concentration rose to 24 times the level recommended by the World Health Organization. The news reported an ‘airpocalypse’ striking half a billion people. Master’s student Zhimei Li is worried, but not surprised.
Text: Teun Fiers
Photo: Nahorski Pavel
‘I am not so surprised by the smog in the past weeks, as the average air pollution was already very severe and now and then this reaches an extreme level. With the Spring Festival – also known as Chinese New Year – coming up, which involves a lot of fireworks, we can expect another peak within a few weeks.
However, I do acknowledge that the situation in the past weeks was dramatic. The people who are affected most are those with inflexible working or studying hours; they cannot decide to stay inside at the worst time of the day. My friends and family complain a lot about it, as well as making jokes to put it all in perspective. Recently, I received selfies from friends in Zhengzhou, a big town south of Beijing, on which the photographer is not even visible because of the smog.
In my opinion the smog is an unavoidable consequence of the industrialization of China; and that is something which Chinese citizens also benefit a lot from. Wearing a mask is a necessity, but a reasonable price to pay for the wealth increase. The air itself is not toxic so the health damage is only long-term. In the future, clean technologies have to replace polluting industries. Also, a comprehensive legal system has to be developed to stop companies from finding loopholes to enable them to pollute. This will just take some time.’
Zhimei Li, Master’s student of Nutrition and Health from Inner Mongolia, China. She comments on the news in her home country.