Dust storms occur regularly yearly in China now. In spring, when winds from China’s north-west blow loose, dry soil and sand from the Gobi Desert into the city, it coats urban areas with a layer of dusty pollution and adds to the existing choking smog from industrial pollution.
Visibility in Beijing was as low as 1km yesterday and levels of large particulate matter, known as PM10, hovered at around 900 micrograms per cubic m, or nearly 20 times the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended daily maximum exposure of 50 mcg per cubic m.
The Chinese government has spent billions of dollars on projects to rein in the spread of deserts, planting trees on empty land and trying to protect what plant cover remains in marginal areas. Right now the effects of the changes are negligible.
Has their economic march gone down a slippery slope they cannot recover from? Will the Paris Climate Agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) be their salvation? Do they have enough political will to make serious and effective changes that will make a difference in the lives of their citizens in the near future? Or is the Economic Imperative just too strong and important a priority?