Beijing’s much maligned pollution levels have been hitting international headlines again. When I speak to people about living in Beijing, one question that always pops up is, “Is the air quality really that bad?”
My response is always, “Yeah… pretty bad.”
Here are a couple of photos I took when working in an office overlooking the eastern part of Beijing’s 3rd ring road (东三环). The first one was taken during a bad spell of pollution that occurred at the end of November and continued into December.
The second photo was taken a few days later, after the pollution had cleared.
On bad days the air in Beijing would be almost soupy and thick with a dusty, tangy smell. My clothes (and my cat’s fur) absorbed this distinctive Beijing scent.
After two years in the capital I developed a sinus issues and spent my remaining two years snivelling into tissues. After being back home for a year, my nose is pretty much back to normal (not that London not is polluted either, but it’s considerably less polluted than Beijing).
For a long time, the Chinese government insisted on referring to the pollution as fog and its Ministry of Environmental Protection gave out suspiciously low air-quality readings, whichwere somewhat conflicting with the alarmingly high readings released by the US embassy situated in downtown Beijing (very near to where I used to live).
However, the discrepancies between the two sets of readings were thrust into the limelight following the handy China Air Pollution Index app that displays real time air quality readings from the US Embassy in Beijing and the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Coincidentally, the Ministry of Environmental Protection started releasing more accurate air quality readings.
More recently, the Chinese government has actually started referring to the suffocating grey haze that can cover the city for days as smog and the authorities have embarked on a wide range of strategies to improve air pollution in response to public outcry, but it will take time for improvements to show.
While there are oodles of things I miss about China, the pollution certainly isn’t one.
- Barbara A. Finamore: In China The Kids Aren’t Alright (huffingtonpost.com)
- Pollution in Beijing increases by 30% (independent.co.uk)
- Barbecues Banned in Beijing – What’s Next? (prweb.com)