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China Calls a Red Alert: the Out of Control Smog in Beijing

LIANYUNGANG, CHINA – DECEMBER 08: (CHINA OUT) Buildings are shrouded in smog on December 8, 2013 in Lianyungang, China. Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China since last week, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

By Ardit Ukella

The Chinese Government currently has an even bigger issue than protesters and people secretly practicing unofficial religions, as they now have a huge problem with the smog in its major cities, particularly Beijing. China has recently called a red alert this Monday to warn civilians in Beijing to take precautions against smog to protect their health when going outside, as the winds on Thursday will enable the smog and its pollutants to damage a person’s lungs if inhaled. A municipal air quality index read as low as 308, which is considered a hazardous by the United States Standards. A low reading such as 308 is a level in which the United States would not even suggest for people to go outdoors. Most of Beijing’s citizens have bought facial masks to protect themselves from breathing in the toxic fumes. Others have put purifiers inside their own homes to ensure that they are breathing in untainted air.

The smog and air pollution started with China’s industrialization, particularly in the mining and burning of coal. Ever since such uses of coal, the air quality in China has become synonymous with the word “polluted”. This is the first time China has used a red alert since they had created an emergency plan for such a scenario two years ago. This alert shows how China’s decisions have led to extreme consequences, in this case their risky trade of the health of their people for the growth of their economy. Now that the Communist Party leaders have become aware of the pollution, they are beginning to attempt to reform the country’s near-apocalyptic levels of air contaminants. However, most of the Chinese citizens have realized that it might take years or even decades for them to cleanup the pollution. Despite the bleak situation, this alert  shows that the Chinese government is attempting to take action on one of their major issues.

The pollution has gotten to such a level that you can’t even see the skyscrapers anymore. One parent, Kan Tingting, announced that she had to watch their kids one day because their Kindergarten class was closed due to the smog. Children aren’t even safe playing outside. A chinese

A skyscraper obscured by smog (photo courtesy of readingthepictures.org)

professor by the name of Wang Bei feels that China is paying the price for ignoring the pollution for so long. The mayor of Beijing, Wang Anshun has said that the Chinese government has to gain back the trust of the people in Beijing to truly fix the issue. Nearly 3,200 schools are being closed down in Beijing due to orders by the government. Since the year 2013, China has had major pollution issues, beginning in the northern part of Beijing. A smog incident occurred a few days ago, but a code red alert was not announced. Some in Beijing believe it was so that they wouldn’t shut down the important factories whose closing would cripple China economically.

Some people worry about their own health or the health of their families. Many people in Beijing feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. One cafe manager in Beijing said, “If it wasn’t for work I would move away in a heartbeat.” Another person who was smoking thought he should put it out but then thought, “Then again what’s the point?” Most of the public don’t even want to stay in their own town or city because of the effects of the smog. Is China really trying to clean up Beijing and the rest of China’s air polluted cities? Or did the government call a red alert in order to calm it’s population? It is ignoring the needs of its citizens, who are slowly breathing in dangerous, tiny dust and coal particles.

Feature photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

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