By Hugh Finlay
Beijing reduced its smog level by 20% in 2017. This is the best level of air quality in Beijing for 9 years, and represents a turnaround in the notorious smog problem of the city. Although this was partly due to favorable weather conditions, a Greenpeace spokesman, Huang Wei said that most of the credit can go to the government's anti-pollution measures. The improvement was especially pronounced in the final 3 months of 2017, when the government launched an anti-smog campaign in Beijing and 27 other cities. The government has introduced tough anti-emission measures in the city and in the other cities, among other things, replacing the use of coal with natural gas.
The 20% drop in smog is measured in dangerous airborne particles called PM2.5. These PM2.5 levels were based on measurements by the US Embassy at Beijing, in conjunction with a Chinese company that measures air pollution in Beijing.
Apart from this the overall level of air pollutants in the city, have reduced by 35% in the past 5 years. And half of the reduction came in 2017.
An energy consultant in Beijing said "The improvement in air quality is due both to long-term efforts by the government and short-term efforts this winter. After 2013, the air in summers got much cleaner, but winter had not shown much improvement. This year is the first winter improvement we've seen during this war on pollution."
Liu Youbin speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Environmental Protection said: "The autumn and winter period is the most challenging part of the air pollution campaign. However, with the intensive efforts all departments have made, we believe the challenge is being successfully overcome."
Beijing still has an international reputation for heavy smog, and travel guides still warn tourists to avoid visiting the city.
Ranping Song, manager of the climate action section of the World Resources Institute said "The turning point is here but we cannot rule out the possibility we can turn back. We need to be cautious about challenges and not relax now that there have been improvements. There are lots of issues to be solved."
The improvement in Beijing is in stark contrast with India’s capital, New Delhi, which continues to be smog filled. India, is ranked the most polluted country in the world, with Thailand and Bangladesh not far behind. On the other hand, China has now moved out of the top 10 list of the most polluted countries in the world.