(NaturalNews) What may appear to foreigners as a city swathed in fog on a cold rainy day is really a Chinese city smothered in smog, a type of air pollution so dangerous that some officials refer to the city as “unliveable,” The Guardian reports.
Over recent years, China’s air pollution has grown increasingly worse, prompting government officials to call for total reform of its industrial practices. However, the trek to curb this environmental crisis has been a slow one, with economic growth still taking precedence over public safety.
Chinese officials blame the country’s increased pollution on widely distributed polluting factories, as well as a significant increase in the amount of motor vehicles on the roadways.
“At the present time, however, Beijing is not a liveable city,” said the city’s mayor, Wang Anshun.
Much of Hong Kong shrouded in smog most of the year
Fossil emissions in China have increased nine-fold since the 1950s, with approximately 2.1 billion tons of coal produced and burned there each year. Home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, roughly one-third of China’s land receives acid rainfall, merely one side effect of severe environmental pollution.
“Acidification now affects some 30 percent of China’s cropland, and the estimated damage to farms, forests, and human health is US $13 billion,” according to the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2006 report.
In addition to the environment, this level of pollution poses extreme risks to human health. As noted by the Worldwatch Institute, a recent study found that nearly half a million premature deaths were caused by diseases linked to air pollution.
Approximately 50,000 newborn babies are killed each year by air pollution, according to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The region’s deteriorating air quality is contributing to an increase in acute respiratory inflammation, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Mayor calls for reform of China’s polluting factories just days before research report announces 10 percent decline in tourism to Beijing
China’s pollution problems are no secret. In fact, a recent report by the market research company Euromonitor International announced its findings on the global tourism market in 2013, reporting a 10 percent decline from the year before in tourism to Beijing due to pollution and an overall decrease in their economy.
Beijing reportedly ranked number 34 out of 100 on the company’s list of the most popular cities for tourism. The city’s major, Wang, called for change when he demanded that Beijing’s polluting factories be totally shut down rather than be “irresponsibly” moved to neighboring areas of Hebei and Tianjin, reports The Guardian.
Last year, the city of Beijing closed nearly 400 pollution-causing factories and removed about half a million cars off the roads, according to Wang, adding that, despite the region’s “choking pollution,” population control is their biggest problem.
With the city’s population increasing by 350,000 residents per year, Wang says an influx of migrant labor has put an added strain on Beijing.
A “sweeping anti-pollution plan” was introduced in 2013 by Chinese officials, which prevented the building of new coal-fired power plants in the country’s three most important cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
“This represents the government is strict with science, truth-seeking, responsible for the people and determined to pursue human-centred administration, improve the environment and safeguard people’s health rights,” according to the announcement.
Eighteen short months later and the plan is moving slowly, in part, due to lax enforcement of environmental regulations. Beijing is still encompassed in a white cloud of smog most days; however, authorities say particulate matter — pollutants most dangerous to human health — have declined by 4 percent, falling slightly short of the government’s 5 percent reduction goal.
Written by Julie Wilson
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