BY: JESSICA BEUKER
On September 3 the city of Beijing was unrecognizable. In what is notoriously known for being one of the smoggiest cities in the world, the Chinese capital traded in its grey skies for a vibrant, picture-perfect blue.
The smog-free skyline was no miracle. Beginning on August 20, Beijing put restrictions on factory production and car use in order to prepare for the 70th anniversary of Japan’s WWII defeat. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 12,255 coal burning boilers, factories and cement mixing-stations were suspended from operating and 40,000 construction sites were halted. Not only that, but the city’s five million cars were forced to drive on alternating days — taking 2.5 million cars off the road.
During the ban, Beijing’s average levels of particulate matter (PM) dropped by 73.2 per cent. On the day of the anniversary parade, the city’s air quality index sat at 17 out of 500, which signifies very healthy air. Unfortunately, the day after the parade when restrictions were lifted, the smog returned and the air quality index hit 160 out of 500 — a level that can cause negative health effects.
While the healthy air in Beijing was only temporary, it puts a spotlight on the benefits of controlling city pollution. “Military Parade Blue is gone; in its place is our ‘Normal Status Gray,’ wrote one user on Sina Weibo, the country’s most popular microblog. “Residents in Beijing will start cursing again. Do we want development? Or do we want the environment? This all shows that the pollution is caused by human activities, and that it’s possible to control.”