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Pen pushers impress no-one with daft ideas

By Brian Salter | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-22 17:26

Pen pushers impress no-one with daft ideasIn the UK we love to cock a snoop at those in authority and as a result we have a well known saying there: "Those who can, do; those who can't become politicians!".

Judging from some of the pronouncements made this past week, I suspect this expression could equally apply to some of China's government mandarins. I'm talking in particular about the much-reported plans to tackle pollution by banning barbecues.

State media have reported that the country's environmental watchdog has issued draft guidelines advising major cities to adopt legislation banning "barbecue-related activities". The controversial measure comes in the aftermath of heavy pollution choking large swathes of the country in recent weeks.

Not surprisingly, the public is highly unimpressed, judging from the number of comments on social media platforms. "I wonder when the government will start banning breaking wind to clean up the air," wrote one Weibo user, perhaps somewhat indelicately.

For sure, this is but one measure put forward to reduce pollution that has enveloped parts of the country in a toxic soup. First, Chinese cities restricted the number of cars on the roads and scrapped old vehicles. The government also asked people to give up their time-honored tradition of setting off thousands of fireworks during the Spring Festival Holiday (though judging by the rerun of "World War III" throughout the holiday, it appears few people paid much attention to that plea!)

But banning barbecues? Oh come on! Who are they kidding? What proportion of pollution comes from barbeques? Yes, charcoal-burning grills can be found across all Chinese cities. But they are hardly the root of China's pollution. If they were really serious about tackling the problem they would start at the real cause – the state-owned coal-burning power stations, polluting factories which are poorly regulated and exhaust fumes from vehicles on choked streets to name but three.

It is said that the annual amount of smoke and dust from the thermal power, iron and steel, petrochemical, cement, non-ferrous metal and chemical industries alone contributes more than 70 per cent of total emissions.

But I suspect it is far easier to come up with some fatuous suggestion in order to be "seen to be tackling the problem" rather than doing something practicable to actually bring pollution under control by introducing pollution-reduction measures that are acceptable to the industries most responsible for pollution.

So, once again it seems, officials have miscalculated how impressed the public would be in thinking up new measures to show how serious they are about tackling the 'airpocalypse' issue. To quote another well-used expression: "Back to the drawing board!"

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