On Monday in Hong Kong, children, the elderly, and people with respiratory illnesses and heart conditions were advised to stay inside because air pollution index readings were at their highest this year.
In Beijing on Monday, the pollution index reached as high as 167, considered a very unhealthy level of pollution according to the US Embassy. Chinese look to the US Embassy for their pollution readings and guidance on dealing with air pollution.
Nitrogen dioxide was the primary pollutant causing problems since air circulation was limited thanks to the wall to wall skyscrapers. Over 50% of the 11 air quality index (AQI) monitoring stations in areas with little traffic recorded extremely high levels, between 103 and 140. Since the beginning of 2013, Beijing, a city of 20 million, has consistently had levels deemed as either very unhealthy or hazardous by experts.
The pollution in Hong Kong seems to be skyrocketing this year, most likely due to the higher than normal number of automobiles on the already notoriously congested roads.
Hong Kong citizens are often consumed with worry about the high pollution index readings and see these high readings as affecting general quality of life. Citizens are realizing that high pollution rates are causing a host of series health issues in both young and old. Adverse health effects due to air pollution caused 322 premature deaths in Hong Kong as of March 2013.
Not only is Beijing’s extreme air pollution affecting the quality of life of its citizens, but it is also hurting the city’s competitiveness and undermining its role as a financial center since many executives relocate due to health concerns.
In March, a Chinese newspaper reported that China will spend 100 billion yuan ($16 billion) over the course of the next three years to combat Beijing’s pollution. The government is trying to diffuse increasing public anger over environmental degradation and negative impacts on the economy. The government hopes to curb the levels before Hong Kong’s potential role as a major Asian financial center is gone forever.