Voices from China

Weibo Watch: Issue 8

(November 9, 2011) This week, a botched Car Free Day sees heavier traffic jams than usual; Beijing’s air pollution is far worse than Chinese authorities admit; citizens clash with police in protests against waste incineration; and farmers burn straw, adding smog to Chinese cities.

September 22: World Car Free Day was not a great success in China: in fact, you could hardly tell it was happening. In most places, the usual packed streets and traffic jams were the order of the day.

On September 22, Caijing (a finance and economics magazine) posted its doubts on Weibo @财经网: “Is September 22nd a ‘Car Free Day’ or traffic restriction day? According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MHURD) of the People’s Republic of China, from 7 am to 7 pm today, the cities (143 in all) that are participating in ‘Car Free Day’ must designate a zone larger than 5 square kilometers as a car-free zone, and prohibit vehicles from passing through… But the big question is — what is the legal basis of this activity? A ‘Car Free Day’ could be voluntary rather than mandatory. http://t.cn/aghVi5 How did they define car-free zones? People were unprepared for the restriction. If the number of cars on the road does not decline today, it means either that the car-free zone exists in name only, or that the traffic peak in the morning and evening will be worse [as determined commuters search for alternative routes]. The former discredits the government; the latter creates man-made confusion. And the order from MHURD looks like an abuse of power.”


Netizen @我叫凹凸蛮 commented at 13:46: “Looking at the effect of ‘Car Free Day’ – during this morning’s traffic peak hours no cars were getting into the car-free zone because they were all being stopped by police. Meanwhile, other roads had heavier traffic jams with drivers taking unnecessarily long detours, which are leading to more congestion on those roads. I am not sure what will happen during the evening peak.” 从早高峰看无车日的效果:禁行区肯定是没车了(都被警察拦下来了),其它道路更堵了,开车的都绕行了,多走好多冤枉路,更多占用路面交通了。还不知道晚高峰会怎样的。 (9月22日 13:46)

A Beijing environmentalist @郭霞SEE reported at 9:48: “Car Free Day: there’s a blue sky in Beijing, but a heavy traffic jam on the road.” 无车日,北京今天有蓝天,可路上依然很堵。

Global Village staff @地球村欣超 posted: “The increasing number of vehicles is making urban traffic jams worse. Meanwhile, particulate matter equal to or less than 2.5 micro-meters (PM 2.5) caused by car exhaust fumes (which is the important factor causing air pollution in urban areas, especially in northern China) is leading to increased haze. Because the PM 2.5 readings have not been included in China’s air monitoring records, air quality is reported as ‘good’ by the Chinese authorities, even though people cannot see blue skies and white clouds because of high PM 2.5 levels.” #2011无车日# 机动车的增加,不断加重城市交通拥堵,同时,其尾气形成的污染物PM2.5细颗粒,还造成灰霾天气的出现与增加,成为中国很多城市尤其是华北地区城市大气污染的重要成因。由于PM2.5细颗粒长期以来不在空气监测范围内,导致了空气监测优良,却感觉不到蓝天白云。

The American embassy in Beijing, meanwhile, set up an air monitoring site which does include PM 2.5 level monitors. Their air quality report is released on Twitter @BeijingAir every hour or so. More than half of their reports in October describe Beijing’s air quality as “unhealthy,” “very unhealthy” or “hazardous.” According to a map made by the newspaper Southern Weekly, comparing China’s Environment Bureau’s Beijing air quality reports with those from the US Embassy’s over the same period, the US embassy report at times indicated that the PM 2.5 level was more than 400 and warned that this was hazardous, while the Beijing authority reported only light pollution.

September 30: Feng Yongfeng @冯永锋 posted: “Environmental expert Zhao Zhangyuan, who has the public’s trust, wrote an article to remind the National Development and Reform Commission to be cautious about promoting waste incineration. http://t.cn/aDwa0j” Zhao Zhangyuan wrote: “Over the past few years, the NDRC has co-signed plans and statements with other departments, to promote waste incineration. These documents strongly advocated spending huge amounts of money to ‘make waste incineration the main way to deal with garbage in many cities…bringing in a golden age for waste incineration [and] welcoming the increase in waste incineration power plant construction.’ Public opposition against waste incineration is mounting in tens of cities … Recently, because of protests against waste incineration by local residents, a bloody fight between police and citizens occurred in Wuxi, Jiangsu province. The government even sent in lots of anti-riot vehicles to crack down on the event. A movement to defend people’s rights against incineration is growing. How can anyone say that incineration is not a central issue of concern to the public?”

October 9: Straw burning has become a major problem in China. Despite a government ban, farmers continue to burn their agricultural waste during the harvest season, because recycling costs time and money. This is a major source of air pollution – state media even cite straw burning as the cause of the urban smog that is choking some Chinese cities.

On October 9, the Henan province-based Dahe Newspaper posted on Weibo @大河报: “Straw Burning Causes Air Quality Decline in Zhengzhou. Zhengzhou is smoggy again, allegedly due to straw burning. Citizens have reported coughing, tightness of the chest and difficulty breathing. The Henan province Environmental Protection Committee reported two incidences of straw burning in Henan on October 8. According to satellite remote sensing monitoring, there were 77 fire sites in Henan province at 16:39, October 8.” http://t.cn/akke0R【焚烧秸秆致郑州空气质量下降】郑州再被大雾笼罩,有市民反映身体出现咳嗽、胸闷、呼吸不畅等症状,疑与焚烧秸秆有关。10月8日,河南省环境保护委员会一天两次对当日全省秸秆焚烧情况进行了通报。根据卫星遥感监测,8日16时39分全省监测到火点77个。http://t.cn/akke0R

Netizen @takeaim doubted the newspaper’s explanation: “I think it is more likely car exhaust fumes.” 我咱觉得这比较像是尾气

Netizen @梁二筆 added: “Jinan (Shandong province) and Beijing have the same air quality. The air has smelled pungent for the past two days. The whole North China Plain is burning straw.” 济南和北京也是,这两天空气特别刺鼻,现在整个华北平原都在烧秸秆

Three netizens @悠铃倩, @韩雨桐111, and @黄浦江深 reported that other cities in Henan like Xinzheng, Xuchang, and Zhoukou face the same problem. “Xinzheng is smoky. 新郑也是乌烟瘴气”, “The air quality in Xuchang has declined too. In the evening, the house is full of the smell of burning straw. 这两天许昌的空气也下降了不少,一到晚上满屋子都是焚烧秸的味道”, “So is Zhoukou. They burn in the evening, secretly. 周口也是这样 晚上偷着烧”.

Netizen @鞠昌华 added: “Farmers who live far apart from each other don’t have the ability to make multipurpose use of straw [such as returning it to the fields, or gasifying it]. Meanwhile, the government does not have a way to solve the burning problem. The result is that government forbids straw burning, without monitoring their own edict. So farmers continue to burn straw, since they can.” 分散农户无力解决秸秆综合利用问题的,政府一时也拿不出可行的办法。最后是政府强令禁止,但是没有人力物力监管,农民则能烧则烧。

Zhejiang Weibo user @云间陆逊 reported: “Our compound burns fallen leaves every day. The property management company said the garbage dump only accepts domestic waste, and fines them money for dumping leaves.” 小区每天焚烧落叶。物业说垃圾场只收生活垃圾,倒落叶要罚款。

@静观明月沁荷香 questioned too: “How many years have they been talking about returning straw to the fields or transforming it to gas? But when have they ever done anything about it? The result is still smoke. What on earth is the problem?” 说了多少年,做到多少天!都说秸秆还田,秸秆成气,结过(果)却是烟雾弥漫。到底是哪里有问题?

Ma Jun @公众环境研究中心马军 commented: “With one foot, we’re stepping into an industrial age, while the other foot remains in the agricultural age. Factories, power plants, vehicles and agriculture are all producing exhaust together.” 一只脚踏进工业化时代,另一只脚还在农耕时代,于是工厂、电厂、汽车、农业一起排放

1 reply »

  1. It’s amazing when one chooses to watch a business news network how many “economic advisers” still expound the “Greatness of China” and that China is “where it’s at” when it comes to the future of the World! (financially speaking).
    As this could be true due to the fact that our Great Leaders over here have shipped all our jobs to China, but in the end why would anyone in their right mind want to locate their future in a Country that is basically nothing more than a “glorified garbage dump!” Whatever isn’t burnt as garbage is shipped to Walmart Stores over here for our shopping “pleasure”!

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