Pollution levels and effects:
China is globally known for its extreme air pollution levels. Causes include the country’s population, being the biggest in the world, and China’s “economic boom,” being the fastest among major nations in the past few decades. While urbanisation has led to a surge in wealth, it means that the people are deprived of basic health security. Effects include lower birth rates, 411,00 premature deaths, and higher adult mortality from respiratory related diseases; in fact, lung cancer rates have risen by 60% in the past 10 years despite no change in smoking rates.
Over the years, the Chinese government has taken a series of steps to battle air pollution. This includes the ban of new coal-fired power plants and the closing down of many old ones, as chemicals released like sulphur dioxide account for 33% of China’s total national emissions. Iron and steel production have been limited and many coal mines have been shut, meaning the government favoured health over the economy in this situation. Moreover, large cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen have limited the number of vehicles on the road and introduced electric buses. According to earth.org, the country planted more than 35 billion trees and with investments of an estimated $100 billion in such programmes, “China’s forestry expenditure per hectare exceeded that of the US and Europe and became three times higher than the global average.”
Furthermore, two major action plans have been established. The first was in 2013, helping cities to make improvements in air quality; by 2017, levels of atmospheric particulate matter (PM2.5) dropped by 33% in Beijing. While this is a great change, cities failed in meeting WHO’s recommended PM2.5 levels; this resulted in a new, three-year, action plan, applying to the entire nation this time. Because of such steps taken for public safety, research suggests “the average citizen can now expect to live 2.4 years longer on average if the declines in air pollution persist.”