China pushing towards being pollution-free by 2020

Big data, artificial intelligence and government reports confirm China's efforts have borne results at quick pace.

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

With leading air pollution app IQAir having recently released its 2018 data, China has emerged as a surprise leader in reducing air pollution when just ten years ago, China had 16 out of 20 of the planet’s most polluted cities.

Once again, world attention is on this vast country known for rapid economic growth at huge environmental costs.

Now, however, China can show heavily polluted countries the way out of the smog.

Come 2020 — six years after they declared war on pollution in response to unprecendented public outrcy over the 2013 smog in the capital city Beijing, Chinese leaders are determined that their country attain its goal of being progressive in environmental aspects as well as economic ones.

At the recent second session of the 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and National People’s Congress, China’s minister for ecology and environment Li Ganjie stressed that the country cannot attain high-quality economic growth if its environment is contaminated.

This equation, explained the minister, is the reason China has tightened laws and intensified pollution prevention, and control measures.

Firmly expecting to end his country’s environmental woes that have stemmed from nearly four decades of rapid growth, Chinese president Xi Jinping released US$38.1 billion to combat pollution.

Noting that these steps were long overdue, Li announced that a two-year program had cleared pollution from nearly 1,474 sources of potable water among county-level cities across the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

With regard to law enforcement, Mr Li cited stricter regulations; in 2018, there were about 186,000 recorded cases of penalties on negligence and procrastination while 39,000 businesses across 18 industries were required to obtain government waste discharge permits prior to disposing their waste into waterways.

With local environmental agencies being urged to assist firms in adopting pollution treatment schemes, Li speaks of restoring river and lake ecosystems which, he points out, are vital to China using clean energy.

China will also be minimising by 3.1% several key pollutants such as ammonia, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen.

Based on the ministry’s report, China’s main cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei achieved 1.3% increase of improved air quality with an average concentration of PM 2.5 (levels of fine particulate matter).

The IQAir 2018 report — obtained in real time from big data and artificial intelligence — confirms China’s efforts have borne results at quick pace; Beijing has dropped 22 spots out of the world’s 100 most polluted cities while other Chinese cities have had a 12% drop in average concentrations of pollutants from 2017 to 2018.