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China’s Pollution Problem Got Better in 2015

A woman and her child in Beijing.
A woman and her child in Beijing.

During the first half of 2015, the levels of two major air pollutants in China fell as the country worked to protect the environment despite their economy’s reliance on manufacturing.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide both greatly contribute to the pollution problem, and both can cause acid rain. The government has been issuing large fines to those who violate environmental laws. However, the government did not report the levels of ozone or carbon monoxide, which are also very effective pollutants.

Sufur dioxide fell by 4.6%, while nitrogen oxide fell 8.8%. This is slightly more than the drop recorded during the first half of 2015. Water quality has also improved, with chemical oxygen demand dropping 2.9% while ammonia nitrogen is 3.2% less prevalent than it was before.

Almost 350 cases yielded 282 million yuan, or $44.27 million, in fines from people who violated environmental guidelines. A great majority of the fines were given to businesses in Hebei province, as it encloses capital city Beijing.

In over 1,300 cases, the fines actually limited or stopped production, and many law breakers even found themselves on “administrative detention”, as 1,000 of those cases resulted in people behind bars.

China’s changes to the environmental legislation went into effect on the first of January. The reforms attempt to curtail China’s pollution problem by issuing unlimited fines and custodial sentences if companies do not work with the resource use, waste treatment and technological standards guidelines. The government can also now shut down firms that do not follow their guidelines.

Interestingly, the government did not disclose the levels of ozone or carbon monoxide in the atmosphere, and it may indicate bad news. Although, since the more rigid environmental laws are relatively new and the government has been busy issuing fines, it makes sense to wait a little longer before deciding whether their new guidelines work or not.

Image (c) Reuters/Damir Sagolj

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    • Thanks for your comment! You could definitely be right, although I would have expected the levels of all pollutants to decline in that case.


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