Popular Criticism Cracks China’s Wall of Denial About Pollution

While the Chinese government has tried for years to downplay environmental problems in the country, citizens are now taking matters into their own hands, the New York Times reports:

Officials have claimed for years that the air quality in fast-growing China is constantly improving. Beijing, for example, was said to have experienced a record 274 “blue sky” days in 2011, a statistic belied by the heavy smog smothering the city for much of the year.

But faced with an Internet-led brushfire of criticism, the edifice of environmental propaganda is collapsing. The government recently reversed course and began to track the most pernicious measure of urban air pollution — particulates 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less, or PM 2.5. It decreed that about 30 major cities must begin monitoring the particulates this year, followed by about 80 more next year.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection also promised to set health standards for such fine particulates “as soon as possible.” Last week, after years of concealing its data on such pollutants, Beijing began publishing hourly readings from one monitoring station.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a nonprofit Beijing group, credits the Chinese public for the breakthroughs. “At the beginning of last year, we had almost lost hope that the PM 2.5 would be integrated into the standards,” Mr. Ma said in a telephone interview. “But at the end of the day, the people spoke so loudly that they made their voice heard.”

Other recent environmental protests include a movement against a chemical factory in Dalian and against a polluting solar panel factory in Zhejiang. Read more about recent citizen actions against environmental pollution via CDT. Check out CDT’s Environment page for much more on the topic.