Is freedom to protest starting to emerge in China? Or will any questioning of the Beijing government and decent in their policies towards unprecedented air pollution be squashed?
Tiananmen Square protests
Against a backdrop of the recently commemorated anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising comes a more peaceful protest. A new mobile phone launched in China helps users track factories in China that are ignoring air pollution laws. The application shows a map using GPS and shows over 400 red dots hinting about a business violating air pollution laws.
The application will be quite beneficial for all people… who breath the air. “People can get to know the source of bad air quality,” said Gu Beibei, Senior Project Manager at the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs who developed the application.
China’s air pollution level is rising
“Such applications are needed as the air pollution level is rising and people should be made aware of the fact in detail,” one report from China dryly indicated. The report noted that the air quality was so bad liquid pollution droplets were falling from the sky.
In China more than 20 percent of the farmland is polluted and 60 percent of the water is undrinkable, a recent Washington Post report, titled “Can china clean up its pollution problem before it is too late,” noted. But worst, the report noted, was the air quality:
It’s so bad that in Zhejiang province last year a fire burned for three hours at a factory before locals noticed anything was amiss. It’s so bad that visibility in Harbin dropped to 10 meters last October, shuttering schools and the airport. It’s so bad that bags of mountain air were shipped into Zhengzhou last March, and contented-looking locals breathed deep like Mel Brooks in “Spaceballs.” So bad that a glass jar of French air sold for $860. So bad that cans of fresh air are going for 80 cents and the millionaire who manufactured them claims he’s sold eight million.
Authorities now finding a solution to the problem
But help is on the way. Not only is public pressure being used as a tool, but authorities are “now in a rush to find a solution to the problem,” according to one report. But getting at the root of the problem, the polluters, may be difficult and so quicker fixes to handle the symptoms, as opposed to the cause, are being used. In May, the report says the government installed cannons to shoot water over 2,000 feet in the air to dispel the smog.
In a sign the real power might be awakening, the Chinese Environment Ministry has asked around 15,000 factories around the nation to close and report their emissions to officials.