Air Sewage

Does that count as mist? Or maybe it’s fog? Or – hang on – maybe this isn’t one of the weather emojis. This is ‘空气污染’ – or ‘air sewage’, one of the biggest problems facing rapidly industrialising modern China. At first glance, it may appear that it’s just the problem of big smelly factories, but that’s not all that’s coming into play here.

The high mountains around the Beijing area which gave original settlers protection are the real root why it is so bad here. These mountains block diffusion of the haze,  which in turn traps a layer of haze inside the already smoggy city, due to the exponential rise in the use of cars (next week is Part 2 of the ‘Freedom of the Air’ series – watch this space!).

The pollution is there, and the pollution is dangerous. It’s estimated that nearly 1.6 million deaths a year are connected to air pollution, which is approximately 3 people every minute. Pollution is on high alert, and the government graphs are going down – but is the air clearing?


In 2007, many iron and steel were moved out of Beijing in an effort to reduce air pollution for visitors to the 2008 Olympics. After 2008 though, many larger factories replaced them, creating an impossibly polluted area for the residents of Songting. Over the last week, residents have been protesting up against the gates of the factories – but there is no response from the higher powers, just a continued belch of smoke.

The government are trying to save face. Last year, they ordered the closure of 30 half-built coal fired power stations, yet workers report that the construction is ongoing. The pollution – and the people – are reaching breaking point, so what on earth are the government doing?

Leave your thoughts below.

Things I learned this week:

  • The fog and mist debate has been totally blown out of the water by air pollution
  • It’s always the mountains’ fault. Blame the mountains.
  • Olympians can’t live in smog for two weeks, but residents can for years on end.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, share with your friends below or subscribe on the homepage to be notified when Part 2 of the ‘Freedom of the Air’ series – ‘The Steam Machines’ is released in the week beginning March 27, 2017.


3 thoughts on “Air Sewage

  1. Marta says:

    I don’t know about official data and numbers, but I see the sky every day with my own eyes (and check the pollution levels in several apps). Pollution is still a big problem, but it has improved in the last 2-3 years, so there is room for hope. It has become a serious concern for citizens and serious concerns bring conflicts, which the Chinese government wants to avoid at all costs. So yes, they are doing something about pollution, although of course it is a very slow progress and there are always corrupt officials which turn a blind eye to the polluting factories in their areas.
    Have you watched the documentary Under the dome (穹顶之下)? It was banned in China 2 weeks after its release, but by that time pretty much everybody had watched it. It is very interesting.


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