In the 21st century, China is an eminent world leader. The capital city of China, Beijing, is a political, economic, and cultural leader, with industries and new technology beneficial to the whole world.
Unlike it’s fast-growing and robust economy, Beijing has a long history of environmental problems. This essay will investigate the increasing problem of air pollution due to overpopulation caused by the rapid urbanization in Beijing, and how the implementation of “A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong” plan is the best possible solution. Urbanization in Beijing has begun to develop rapidly, leading Beijing to face a crisis of overpopulation. Beijing is the second-most populated city in the world with around 21.5 million people. Its population had a 44% increase in the last decade (2010 Census Bureau), and Shanghai Daily expects the population to reach 50 million by 2050. There is a large population living in a small area of only 16,808 kilometers squared, which eminently leads to severe environmental pollution. Air pollution in Beijing has been increasing steadily, resulting in a thick brown haze that engulfs the entire city.
Fine Particulate Matter, PM 2.5, are tiny particles that blacken buildings and cause breathing difficulties. The result mostly from combustion sources, the burning of fuels, and from motor vehicles.
These particles are small enough to bypass the human mucus and make their way deep into the lungs, resulting in the most dangerous health risks. PM 2.5 levels are safe around 25 micrograms per cubic meter (World Health Organization), but in Beijing, levels were 15 times greater than the recommended guidelines (Associated Press). Over the years, Beijing has tried to fabricate the severity of this air pollution problem. The Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center has collected data on such particulate matter for the past five years, but continuously refused to make it public, only releasing the results of the more significant, PM10 particles. Doing so makes the air quality readings seem cleaner than they are. Rapid urbanization in Beijing is the primary influence for the high level of air pollution. As the population quickly increases, the number of vehicles, factories, and amount of energy needed will also increase.
For example, China was first in the world in energy consumption, consuming 3,123 million tonnes oil equivalent (Mtoe). To meet the citizen’s demand for energy, about 63% of China’s energy source is coal since it can be found almost everywhere. However, using a harmful and non-renewable energy source only to quickly meet the demands of the people is inefficient. Inevitably, the many deadly gases released from the burning of coal will potentially call an increase in air pollution. Therefore, the massive population and their demands are two of the main reasons behind Beijing’s poor air quality. This severe problem must be solved because it brings health risks, which may eventually limit Beijing’s future success.
According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is one of the world’s biggest and most dangerous killers.The Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning determined that 411,000 premature deaths happened across China due to air pollution. Compared to citizens living in southern China, the average lifespan for Beijing’s citizens is five to six years shorter. Beijing’s air pollution affects the health of its citizens and jeopardizes the growth of the city. Although it may seem unavoidable, there is a possible solution which can avert the problem. The Environmental Bureau (ENB) and Environmental Protection Department (EPD) believed that air pollution should not have to be a part of life in Hong Kong. In March 2013, they published A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong (CAP 2013), hoping to achieve two goals: to reduce roadside air pollution and to control emissions of power plants.
Roadside air pollution was reduced the aggressive targeting of three types of high polluting vehicles: diesel commercial vehicles (DCV), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and petrol vehicles, and franchised buses. Firstly, the diesel commercial vehicle was found responsible for the dominant source of PM10, and therefore, regulations were set on the production of diesel commercial vehicles. All of the DCV cars were replaced with new models and banned the use of the older model. For users of the new model, a maximum service life of 15 years was guaranteed. In 2016, almost all of the old-model diesel commercial vehicles went away, and the emission of PM10 decreased by nearly 80% (Environmental Protection Government).
Secondly, in September 2014, the EPD required remote sensing equipment to identify vehicles with excessive emissions from liquefied petrol vehicles (LPG). A notice would be sent to the driver needing the car to be repaired if the emission level was too high. As a result, drivers stopped using LPG cars due to the expensive repairment fee.
Lastly, since franchised buses are one of the primary sources of roadside air pollution, the Hong Kong government only allowed “better buses” on certain roads. Even though this action did not directly enforce a law banning franchised vehicles, drivers stopped driving these buses since they realized it does not make as much money as the “better buses.” A study from the EPG later showed that restricting the franchised buses decreased roadside pollution by 73% in the year of 2014. Targeting three types of high polluting vehicles was extremely effective in reducing roadside pollution, and therefore this solution should also be implemented in Beijing. Along with controlling roadside air pollution, controlling power plant emissions was also successful.
The Hong Kong government required the electricity companies to apply to using advanced technology to reduce emissions. They added fuel mix such as flue gas and NOX control equipment, which decreases impact on emissions from electricity generation. They are also using low emission coals whenever possible. More emissions reductions were achieved through reducing the reliance on coal and switching to renewable energy. To promote the usage of renewable energy, Hong Kong Electric Company (HEC) installed solar panels at its Lamma Power Station between 2010 and 2013.
According to HEC, “The solar power system generated more than 2.26 million units of green electricity, saving about 1,880 tonnes of carbon dioxides, which is equivalent to planting over 81,000 trees.” If Beijing also required the electricity companies to apply to using advanced technology to reduce emissions, then they would be able to decrease the amount of air pollution as much as Hong Kong did. China is the most powerful and influential country in the world.
However, it’s capital city, Beijing, is one of the cities with the most inferior air quality. Even though Beijing’s economy is superior, the poor health of the citizens will eventually lead to a collapse in the city. Through enforcing the A Clean Air Plan for Hong Kong (CAP 2013) in Beijing, the plan can salvage Beijing’s environment and create a healthier atmosphere for future generations.