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Pollution in China

China has been on the forefront of development in the past couple of decades. The progress made by the Chinese in such a short period of time is indeed remarkable. The high rise buildings, the mega express highways, the air, water and land connectivity, the industrial development which China has achieved is unparalleled. But all this has a come at a very high cost. In fact, it is now contemplated whether the cost was worth the effort. This has come at the cost of the environment and the lives of its people.

The drinking water in the river Huangpu, which supplies drinking water to Shanghai, is poisonous. Over 16000 carcasses of dead and bloated pigs were fished out recently. Air pollution in Beijing so bad that International Air Quality Measuring Station can only call it “beyond index”.

And in the interiors of China, the cancer rates in industrial towns is so high that they are called “cancer villages”. The Chinese Government is completely silent on these issues. They do not wish to derail the China Developmental Plan.

It may be hard to believe this but the Chinese population, who has always been subjugated by the regime, is now starting to demand government action to combat the deadly plagues of pollution and disease. China is amongst the 10 most polluted places on Earth.

However, with the complete inaction of the Chinese officials, the people of China are now forced to face environmental catastrophes on a daily basis.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality scale, any pollution rating above 300 means the air is unsafe to breathe. Under these conditions, it is recommended that people stay indoors with an air purifier running and remain as motionless as possible. However, in January earlier this year, there were 19 days when the index in Beijing surpassed that 300 threshold. And on the 12th of Jan. the rating reached 886! The reason for such high ratings are the air pollution caused by the manufacturing industries, the 5 million cars in Beijing aloe and most importantly, the coal fired power plants. China burns 47 percent of the world’s coal, roughly equal to the amount used by all other countries of the world combined.

Thousands of dead pigs floating past Shanghai, the leaks of Benzene in the rivers causing cancer, hundreds of people hospitalized due to unsafe drinking water are just some of the examples of how polluted the water in China is. More than half of China’s surface water is so polluted it cannot be treated to make it drinkable, the Economist reports, and one-quarter of it is so dangerous it can’t even be used for industrial purposes.

Deforestation, increased population pressure on agricultural land, dust storms, mud chocked rivers, cancer villages, unbreathable air, undrinkable water. It is said that it will take the Chinese over 300 years to reforest itself to normal levels.

Yes, the development of China has indeed come at a cost. And it’s a cross too big to carry.

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Namita holds a degree in Chemistry, and a PhD in energy management and has years of experience working with a number of petroleum giants across the globe. Namita heads the Energy market research department.