104 Chinese cities have severe air pollution levels

Is it time for a Chinese Clean Air Act?


Last week Shanghai experienced record smog levels which have since dropped from their peak but remain relatively high. But lest you forget, Shanghai isn't the only Chinese city with poor air quality.

In a column for the South China Morning Post, Wang Xiangwei says that last Friday 104 Chinese cities had PM2.5 readings of more than 300. On a national six-level rating system of air pollution, all the cities were considered at the top of the list with a "severe" rating. In other words, millions of people are being  exposed to dangerous air pollution . But it's not just air pollution, 70 percent of China's lakes and rivers are "unfit even for animals to drink."

The irony is that the widespread pollution, brought on by years of strong economic growth, could be what hampers economic growth in the long term. As Xiangwei points out:

Many more mainlanders now say that they want to migrate to other countries and foreign businessmen refuse to relocate to the mainland partly because of the pollution.

And while China has announced plans to cut back on coal -- one of the major culprits of the smog problem -- it might be time to do even more. Fortunately, for China -- and other countries struggling with pollution as a result of economic growth -- there are plenty of examples of cities that have risen from a smoggy, polluted past:

Last week, photos comparing today's masked mainlanders wallowing in thick smog to the Londoners facing the similar situation in the 1950s and 1960s went viral on the internet. The smog killed thousands of people in Britain before the authorities there took decisive steps to introduce the Clean Air Act to bring pollution under control. 
It is time that the mainland leadership learnt from those lessons and takes steps to introduce China's own Clean Air Act. After all, what good is achieving Xi's Chinese "dream of rejuvenation" if people cannot breathe the air or drink the water.

Read more: South China Morning Post

Photo: Flickr/Ramon Boersbroek

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com