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Current Affairs

China’s blue skies

Date: 11 February 2022 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Clear blue skies welcomed athletes taking part in the Winter Olympics in Beijing. This was in stark contrast to smog filled skies 10 years ago.

 

Background

Beijing was known for its terrible pollution, especially in winters. The magnitude was such that it was called "Airpocalypse" and blamed for scaring off tourists.

 

Details

  • Earlier, people living in the cities were forced to wear masks to protect themselves from pollution. It was impossible to see buildings due to smog.

  • This time around the air is clean enough for athletes participating in the Olympics to see the mountains surrounding the city.

 

Changes made

  • China made an ambitious plan to get rid of pollution in the city after pollution hit record levels in 2013 and gathered international attention.

  • The steps were similar, but on larger scale, to the ones the country had taken to clear the skies ahead of the Summer Olympics of 2008.

  • Total cars plying on the roads were cut drastically. Strict standards were imposed on coal fired power plants.

  • Coal fired boilers were replaced with electrical or gas power in homes. Officials were given environmental targets to achieve.

 

Current situation

  • The situation has improved drastically but the pollution levels are still six times more than the limit laid out by the World Health Organization's guidelines.

  • The city is still susceptible to pollution as the number of cars rise. It depends on local factors like humidity and wind speed.

Impact on health

  • Air pollution can result in irritation in eyes and difficulty in breathing. Citizens suffering from Asthma are more vulnerable.

  • Fine pollution particles can enter people's lungs and can cause health problems including irregular heartbeats and decreased lung function.

Way ahead

  • China has made significant progress in moving towards cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar. It aims to become carbon neutral by 2060.

  • The country has been slowly reducing industries using coal power. Vehicles have also been migrating towards electric power.