Another month, another Chinese city drowning in a sea of thick smog. This time, it’s Shanghai, the country’s largest city, where visibility has been reduced just a few meters and people walk the streets with protective masks to shield their lungs from the pollution. The situation has become so bad that the government requires schoolchildren to stay inside for protection from the dirty air. Meanwhile, the lives of millions of people have effectively been put on hold, as the Guardian reports:
The financial district was shrouded in a yellow haze and noticeably fewer people walked the city’s streets. Vehicle traffic was thinner, as authorities pulled 30% of government vehicles from the roads. They also banned fireworks and stopped all public sporting events.Protective masks and air purifiers were selling briskly at local stores.“I feel like I’m living in clouds of smog,” said Zheng Qiaoyun, a local resident who kept her 6-month-old son at home. “I have a headache, I’m coughing, and it’s hard to breathe on my way to my office.”
Air pollution has emerged as a serious problem for China, where cities often post concentrations of dangerous PM 2.5 particles far, far higher than what is safe. The government has begun to take the problem more seriously, but so far it has had little success turning things around. Beefing up the country’s fracking efforts to reduce its dependence on coal would be a good first step.