January 4, 2008

Pollution Again

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[img_assist|nid=26539|title=Movin’ On Up|desc=A view of high-rise buildings in Beijing through the city’s polluted air. The air pollution levels in the city maximized the government’s 500 point scale for air quality on this day.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Pollution is still a major problem in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as places throughout China, but air quality has generally improved in the cities since the 1980s, when Beijing became one of the most polluted cities in the world. Emissions controls now exist for factories, nuclear plants are being built to lessen the country’s dependence on coal energy and better energy saving technology is being imported and developed there. Many factories have also been moved out of the city to prevent the build up of smog within one area. In Shanghai, there has been development of green spaces and tree planting to combat pollution and provide people cleaner air. Consul General of Shanghai Kenneth Jarrett ’75 attributes much of this progress to pressure from the population on the government, but acknowledges that air quality issues are still prominent. In Beijing, where license plate tags are much cheaper than Shanghai (5,000 yuan to 35,000 yuan, according to a few Shanghai residents), vehicle traffic creates much of the pollution. Furthering the problem is the 1,200 more cars and trucks that join the roads each day, according to The New York Times.
In a city where merely breathing can be difficult for foreigners (and locals), how Olympic athletes will compete is a mystery to many. The government is planning to shut down factories and ban private cars from traveling within the city during the games. All construction is also going to be halted for a few months before opening ceremonies so that the dust will settle.