Tuesday, February 5, 2013

China's Toxic Skies

Pollution readings from the US Embassy (upper) and the local government shows hazardous levels of air pollution in Beijing on January 23, 2013. At the height of recent pollution, Beijing authorities said readings for PM2.5 – particles small enough to penetrate the lungs – hit 993 micrograms per cubic meter, almost 40 times the World Health Organization's safe limit. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Rooftops of Beijing's Forbidden City, obscured by thick smog, in Beijing, China, on January 16, 2013. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

Vehicles drive through the Guomao Bridge on a heavy haze day in Beijing's central business district, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

Severe pollution clouds the Beijing skyline on January 12, 2013. Air quality data released via the US embassy twitter feed recorded air quality index levels so hazardous that they were classed as 'Beyond Index'. Just after midday the particle matter (PM) 2.5 figure was 519 on a scale that stops at 500 and advises against all outdoor activity. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

A bright video screen shows images of blue sky on Tiananmen Square during a time of dangerous levels of air pollution, on January 23, 2013 in Beijing. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

A combination photograph shows people wearing masks on a heavy smog day in Beijing, on January 29, 2013. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

The last time I was in Beijing was in July last year. I am so glad I am not in the Chinese capital this month because January's pollution has afflicted Beijing and its 20 million people. And more than 30 other major cities in China.

As the Communist Party's English-language tabloid The Global Times put it in an editorial on Thursday: "China's rapid development has brought us many benefits as well as accumulated many problems. Environmental protection should take up a more prominent position in China's future strategy even if it means that China's economic development will slow down."

I agree. The Chinese should not accept environmental degradation as the price for progress. I wouldn’t want to live in a city where every now and then, it is blanketed by unhealthy smog.

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