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China pollution

A few months ago newspapers published the news that China ratified the agreements for the reduction of CO2 emissions (at the last minute, together with USA). A ratification that means a real commitment to do something for the environment. But not right now: it will happen may be in four or five years. The problem is that the situation is already critical today in most of the country. Tens of thousands of environmental refugees fled from the big cities because of pollution after what some have called “airpocalyse”, a pall of smog unbreathable forcing nearly half a billion people live under a blanket of toxic fumes. The regions most affected are those of Beijing, Tianjin and Heibei.

A situation so serious that a group of lawyers filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government for not doing anything concrete. A stat of the art confirmed by the Financial Times: Beijing (and many other cities in northern China) for over a week were in “red alert” for the pollution Schools and circulation were limited ore closed and even some factories have been forced to suspend their activities. Even airports suffered severe damage: hundreds of flights were grounded because of poor visibility.

Cheng Hai, a Beijing lawyer, directly accused the government saying that there is a clear responsibility for this: “There has been talk of progress on air pollution, but almost no action has been made in recent years,” he said.

It is the first time that lawyers initiate an administrative lawsuit to protest against the way the government handles environmental problems. An innovation that has quickly filled the net: Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has spoken extensively despite an attempt of censorship by the authorities that has obscured several posts (you can still see on other sites).

This event put the issue of the management of funds earmarked for anti-pollution measures: as mentioned Qiao Mu, a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, “Everything about politics, disclosure of information, censorship etc., they are usually rejected, “the way in which the sums allocated to the actions to reduce emissions is never made known.

Even the energy policies adopted shortly will serve to: until now has not gone beyond the promise of the central government to move production of electricity in the country from coal to renewables. A promise that will require years indeed decades to be maintained. Meanwhile, are still rising emissions of hundreds of coal plants present throughout China (some of whom had just been constructed).

In the meantime, there are still many cases of “red alert” caused by air pollution in areas of northern and central China, where dangerous pollutant cocktails transform the sky in a yellow fog or other colours. A serious problem that affects 460 million people (as stated by Greenpeace), a population equivalent to that of the United States, Canada and Mexico together.

An unlivable situation that is forcing tens of millions of people to flee and get away from the areas where pollution is greater: a tour operator said it expects a movement of people not less than 150 thousand people just this month: people to escape the smog He tries to go to Australia, Indonesia, Japan and the Maldives. “People do not want to live in places with horribly polluted air,” he says some of these environmental refugees.

Until now the government’s attempts to stem the problem by granting aid to companies more responsible for this pollution (such as cement and steel) have not had any effect other than to embarrass the smaller companies (forced to face an increasingly fierce competition and adapt to increasingly restrictive regulations).

And while the government still does not know how to face this emergency, the smog has reached a level eight times higher than the level recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), in Beijing the rate of micro-particles (PPM 2,5) is was about 200 micrograms per cubic meter of air (data from the US Embassy).

A situation that is already causing (today and not in four or five years) serious damage to health of the inhabitants: the People’s Daily published the news that Beijing hospitals recorded an unexpected increase in patients with respiratory diseases (cough, tracheitis , asthma). Diseases related to pollutant emissions.

C.Alessandro Mauceri



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