China has a pollution problem whose dimension has stunned even hardened capitalists.  While most of the country's larger cities are rendered all but invisible by choking dust particulates, and most people cannot go outdoors or have to wear masks, the government in China has decided to tackle the pollution problem. 

The problem however with such move is the fact that the scourge of pollution is not being tackled at the source as it should, or as much as it should.  There is no immediate plan to reduce the carbon emissions and coal fired plants smog that are making China the living pollution hell that it has become. 

The solution, at least for now, is to capture the pollution in the air, in certain areas, by employing drones which would spray a chemical that freezes the pollution cloud and allows the offending matter to fall to the ground.

But is that really a solution?  The fallen pollution would then cover every surface and seep into the ground and water sources. In addition to the precipitated pollution would be the chemical that causes it to freeze in the air.  The cocktail, for sure, has health hazards of its own, which have not even been addressed.  There is no report on the possible effect of such matter falling to the ground.

But so be it.  Appearance matters to the Chinese - more than substance in some instances.

The drone is yet to be fully tested.  For now, the drone will be employed in designated areas to see whether it is a viable method of reducing the visible pollution.  

Little more than a tiny paraglider, the drone can carry more weight that the fixed wing version.  It is a cost effective and probably efficient way of tackling the problem. But is it really going to reduce the health risks of the massive amounts of particulates emitted each day by coal fired plants?

The so called 'war on pollution' a new effective slogan employed by the National People Congress, promises to rehabilitate the tainted image of China as a country beset by impenetrable skies and apocaliptic landscapes. 

The drone would however, reduce the suspended particulates that constitute the worse element of the visible pollution, since they are breathed in and remain as matter that clings to the lung tissues, where it could be a precursor to illnesses such as cancer and other ailments.

Nearly 15% of China is constantly blanketed by thick smog.  Can a small drone truly tackle such a massive problem?

Tests of the drone continue apace, with the government vigorously pursuing the policy of 'regional' amelioration through the use of small drones.  Each drone could carry 700 kilos of the chemical needed to precipitate the smog to the ground.  Each load could then clear, theoretically, a 5 km area.  

The Chinese government is hard pressed to enact some measures, as dissent grows from citizens fed up with the unhealthy conditions of their cities.  In Beijing, grass roots movements are trying to force the authorities to do something and accuse the central government with neglecting the health hazard in favor of the business entities that produce the offending smog. 


The truth, of course, is that the Chinese government does not want to tackle the problem at the source so vigorously, so that it does not burden its growing industrial sector and energy producting entities with costly measures that would reduce pollution.  Another problem is the skyrocketing numbers of new cars, which the citizens of Beijing also cite as a cause of smog.  Regulating the number of cars on the road and better public transportation could also help better the situation, but there is no indication that any such measure is being considerd. 

It is unclear at the moment, what further programs or plans the government has to effect its 'war on pollution' other than the above mentioned drones. 

A 32 page report was issued by the authorities in China that details initiatives now under consideration. In the report the central government has promised to cut emissions and to promote renewable energy. But these measures seem more like window dressing than a real effort.  The other problem is the corruption at the local levels, where orders to effect changes in the factories and plants that pollute could easily be overridden through payment of bribes to local authorities. 

The other solution, now offered more as a possibility than an actual solid plan, is the construction of more hydroelectric dams and nuclear plants to reduce coal fired energy plants and factories.  

However, all the good intentions detailed in the reports do not seem to be matched with an equally large funding.  Spending on pollution reducing measures actually dropped by almost 10% this year.  In addition, last year's budget was only used up to 86% of the total allotment indicating that enforcement is not as strict as it should be. 

However bleak the situation seems at the moment, the Chinese government is moving, toward tackling the problem. Hopefully pressure from the citizenry and world environmental watchdog agencies alike will speed up the process. 

Source: SCMP: 3.6.14



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