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China pollution anger spills into state media

15 january 2013, 10:28
0
©AFP
©AFP
Anger mounted in China Monday over pollution which reached hazardous levels in recent days, with state media questioning the nation's breakneck development and government transparency over air quality, AFP reports.

State media joined Internet users in calling for a re-evaluation of China's modernisation process, which has seen rapid urbanisation and economic development achieved at the expense of the environment.

Dense smog shrouded large swathes of northern China at the weekend, cutting visibility to 100 metres in some areas and forcing flight cancellations. Reports said dozens of building sites and a car factory in the capital halted work as an anti-pollution measure.

Beijing authorities said readings for PM2.5 -- particles small enough to deeply penetrate the lungs -- hit 993 micrograms per cubic metre at the height of the pollution, almost 40 times the World Health Organization's safe limit.

In an editorial on Monday the state-run Global Times newspaper called for more transparent figures on pollution, urging Beijing to change its "previous method of covering up the problems and instead publish the facts".

Official PM2.5 figures have only been monitored in China's major cities since the beginning of last year.

The paper ran a story on differences between air quality figures given by Chinese authorities and the US embassy in Beijing.

"The choice between development and environmental protection should be made by genuinely democratic methods," the Global Times said.

"Environmental problems shouldn't be mixed together with political problems."

An editorial in the state-run China Daily blamed the pollution on China building its cities too quickly, adding that "China's process of industrialisation has not finished".

"In the middle of a rapid urbanisation process, it is urgent for China to think about how such a process can press forward without compromising the quality of urban life with an increasingly worse living environment," it said.

The China Daily also called on Beijing's five million car owners and government officials who use state-owned cars to rethink their driving habits, while also urging the government to tackle "pollutants emitted by industries".

Smog levels eased in the capital on Monday, with the PM2.5 reading at 400 in central Beijing, but the crisis still dominated discussion on Sina Weibo, China's hugely popular version of Twitter.

"This pollution is making me so angry," said one web user, who also posted a picture of herself wearing a face mask.

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