This is a hot topic when one talks about China, I think it is very well known that China has a bad reputation for air quality and in reality this is so true and so bad. In Beijing you can see smog in the street as though someone were having a summer bonfire; this only raises questions about the impact to health of the citizens in the city let alone those working in industries that cause such pollution. However, its not just factories, it is also the increase in cars and motorized bikes in the city. This is a worrying site but it is also worrying that the smog stretches far outside the city as well; it was covering the skies around the Great Wall as well!
This to me is a terrible indictment of the challenge’s the country has to face but also scared for the long term impact on the health of its citizens. Now I mentioned Beijing but it is not just Beijing but all cities from our experience in China and not just the cities but also the countryside and the skies away from the source.
There are signs of hope and understanding from the government though, we have seen an immense tree planting program all over the country which is looking to stabilize areas that are under threat from desertification and seemingly try to introduce more and more trees to help combat the pollution and rising CO2 levels. It is an impressive program, for example on one stretch of road in Ningxia we estimated over 1 million saplings had been planted along the roadside, rows 10 wide and following the road for some 50kms!
How much of this effort will succeed is another thing, China is fighting a battle that is going to be hard to win, it is trying to reverse much of the damage that has been done, but it is also on a constant building mission and I don’t just mean here and there, I mean everywhere. There are huge building works everywhere you turn from residential tower blocks in the cities to accommodate for the shift in the population from rural to city, to transport projects, new railways, new bridges, new roads and new transport hubs that are merging all over the country, I have never seen such construction in my life. All this work is to help facilitate the movement of the population which is needed, but the cost to the environment has the potential to be massive.
During our time in China we can count only twice with which we saw a blue sky, one was when we climbed mount Emei Shan and climbed above the clouds and the other was when we were in the extreme south around Jinghong and leaving the country for Laos. These are not just cloudy skies either they are block grey in colour and shade. It is a very suppressive feeling when you never see the blue sky and it was a weird site when we finally did see one nearly 3 weeks later, it seemed a much overstated blue and really blew our senses!
To be fair there could be other times of the year when the skies are clearer but in my opinion its irrelevant as it is clearly apparent there is a pollution problem in China. Take a look at our photographs and pay attention to the skies…..