Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Smog crisis tries the limits of people's patience

By Bai Ping (China Daily) Updated: 2013-12-14 07:58

Chinese people have traditionally cherished the virtue of eating bitter, or the ability to endure hardships without complaint. As a befitting sign of their tenacity to achieve a worthy goal despite extreme difficulties, the Chinese character for perseverance is a knife suspended over a heart.

But breathing smoggy air has unnerved even the toughest of the tough among them as it is becoming part of their daily life and they see no bright spot at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The nation that has seen unprecedented economic prosperity was shrouded by a collective concern over the smothering smog, which has wreaked havoc in Beijing and its neighboring provinces in northern China in recent years, swept across more than 100 central and eastern cities early this month.

The smog and filthy air forced the closure of schools and a ban on private cars. Hapless residents anxiously waited for strong winds to blow away the particulate matter, aware as they were of doctors' warnings that the suffocating, apocalyptic smog could cause respiratory diseases.

Even in the current lull of blue skies, people fear smog will strike any time again and are despaired of the nation's lack of a coherent and viable strategy to deter its invasion.

After Beijing recorded record levels of air pollution in January during last winter and jittery that heavy pollution would strike the capital again this winter, the government has ordered the city and its surrounding areas to halt production and reduce outputs to curb emissions in severe situations.

However, as smog continues to shroud large parts of the country with even greater ferocity, people have begun to wonder whether such emergency measures may be too little, too late.

The latest onslaught of smog appeared to have caught offguard even environmental officials, who acknowledged that the measures scrambled by cities could alleviate smog, but only with very limited effect. Experts have become more pessimistic about the prospects of the battle for clear blue skies as they foresee chronic air pollution for another 10-20 years as China's urbanization accelerates and clusters of cities continue to mushroom.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News
New type of urbanization is in the details