Air Pollution Reaches Critical Levels in Beijing, the City Is All but Shut Down

Everybody knows that spending one day locked in a room with a running diesel engine is healthier than one breath of air in Beijing, but it seems that the issue has reached new heights.
Beijing pollution 1 photo
Photo: Chris Aston of
While the world leaders are still in Paris for COP21, putting in place ways of curbing down global warming and the associated air pollution, Beijing is experiencing its first ever smog red-alert that has the city on lockdown.

This was bound to happen since the authorities seemed very lax about tackling the problem, while the city continued to expand every day. More citizens meant more cars, and more cars - like it or not - meant more pollution. At the same time, another big problem affecting Beijing’s air quality are the numerous construction sites releasing huge quantities of dirt and dust all over the city. And to top it all off, China is still very much relying on coal-generated electric power and heating.

With the U.S. Embassy’s air pollution monitor (somebody has to do it) reading 291 micrograms of tiny particles per cubic meter on Tuesday morning local time, that meant the Beijing air had a pollution index of over ten times the maximum level recommended by the World Health Organisation, which is 25.

This prompted the government to close down schools, halt any outdoor construction activities, and ban half the cars off the streets (cars with odd and even license plates will be allowed alternatively) until Thursday, December 10.

But according to BBC, only a week ago it was much worse than this, as that same index read figures around 40 times greater than WHO’s threshold. So, as they wait for the day the license plate on their car allows them to drive, people are wondering: why go with the red alert now?

Well, the simple answer is that it had to start from somewhere. Maybe the public pressure is finally making a change in China, or maybe the government realized that losing over one million people to pollution every year isn’t OK, the fact of the matter is that measures are being taken.

We shouldn’t expect anything as drastic as what happened back in September for the great military parade, a more “baby steps” approach sounding a lot more reasonable instead. But as long as those steps are longer than the rate at which air pollution is growing, their purpose will eventually be reached.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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