Beijing’s Smog Five Years On

Apparently you can still see the sunrise in Beijing, but only a televised version.

Yesterday The Huffington Post reported that the Beijing sunrise is being screened on a huge television in Tienanmen Square amid the choking grey smog that shrouds the capital.

According to reports, the smog is the worst it has been since this time last year and hit over 20 times the recommended exposure levels set out in guidelines by the World Health Organization.  City officials are warning residents to wear protective masks and the US embassy suggested that “everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors.”

It was around this time in 2013 when I wrote my first article for AOL Travel, a news piece about how Beijing residents were trying the beat the fog by buying ‘fresh air in a can’…and it wasn’t a wind up.

The product’s millionaire creator, Chen Guangbiao, was convinced that even though the cans had no discernible health benefits, they might help raise awareness of China’s growing environmental problems, which is exactly what officials hope the screen in Tienanmen Square will do now.

I visited  Beijing back in late 2009 and was shocked at the pollution that residents live with everyday. I landed in a thick, milky soup that I assumed was seasonal mist, until I ventured into the capital and saw everyone walking around in mouth covers, heads down, trying to avoid breathing in the viscous air.


The winter sun would shine weakly in this endless smog, sometimes burning through to reveal the cold blue sky but, on bad days, it would hide monuments and landmarks from me as I flicked through endless photographs of me standing in front of a wall of greyish white.


Unsurprisingly, it was worse in central Beijing and, when I left the city, I could feel the air thinning and becoming fresher and cleaner the further out I went. Standing on The Wall I felt as though I was gulping lungfulls of the purest air imaginable, trying to get my breathing out of the way for the day before I had to get back to the city.


But this was five years ago and it only seems to have got worse. City officials, government, residents, health advisers, international corporations and health organisation are all aware of it but you have to wonder, what will it look like in another five years and, more importantly, will you even be able to see it?




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