Our Shanghai air quality article discussed government efforts to reduce Shanghai air pollution in 2013.
The key local initiative launched after serious air pollution attacked much of China including Shanghai in 2013 was the The Shanghai Clean Air Action Plan, unveiled in October of that year. The action plan set the goal of reducing annual average PM2.5 concentration in Shanghai by 20% by 2017 from the base year of 2012.
In this article we shall take a look at what causes Shanghai air pollution. We shall also discuss the many new measures implemented by the local government between 2014 add 2016 to tackle the serious air pollution issue. Then we shall break down the Shanghai air pollution data from 2014 and 2015.
Finally we shall take a look at a study which analyzed whether Shanghai air quality is really much healthier than Beijing air quality.
So what causes air pollution in Shanghai? According to a report from July 2014 Shanghai air pollution is composed of:
Another report from earlier in 2014 gave the following break-down of Shanghai pollution:
A report issued in early January 2015 listed the following sources of air pollution in Shanghai:
- 26 percent of the air pollutants in Shanghai came from other cities and provinces.
Of the air pollution created from within the city:
In September 2014, Shanghai introduced the strictest air pollution law in China, which went into effect on October 1st..
Personal penalties for company bosses of up to RMB 100,000 were introduced for the first time, in addition to maximum fines for companies rising from the previous RMB 100,000 to RMB 500,000.
The prohibition on burning straw and other bonfires was extended to all of Shanghai, having previously only being enforced in certain areas.
Unfortunately the fine for farmers illegally burning straw, which causes about 10% of Shanghai air pollution, is set at just RMB 200, so not a strong deterrent.
In early October 2014, it was announced that a factory caught for illegally emitting air pollution would be the first to be charged under this new law and therefore levied a very high fine.
Apart from Shanghai's air pollution action plan 2013-2017 (The Shanghai Clean Air Action Plan) and the Shanghai Air Pollution Law of 2014, the city government implemented many other measures to tackle air pollution between 2014 and 2016. Here is a list of many of the measures:
According to the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 dropped by 16.1% to 52 ug/m3 in 2014 from 62 ug/m3 in 2013.
This good news, however, was tempered with figures released by China's Environmental Protection Ministry showing that air quality actually worsened in the Yangtze River Delta region, encompassing Shanghai, in the first half of 2014 due to an increase in Ozone levels.
Ground-level ozone (O3) is a problem for Shanghai especially in the summer months as volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) react with sunlight to produce ozone. Average levels increased by 12.8% in the Yangtze River Delta region in the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2013.
Shanghai expats are familiar with the hazards of PM 2.5 fine particulate matter, but ozone is another serious pollutant which can also damage our lungs.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ozone is a major factor in asthma morbidity and mortality. It can cause breathing problems, trigger asthma, reduce lung function and cause lung diseases.
China's Ministry of Science and Technology issued the draft of a five-year air pollution control project in March 2015 in which they acknowledged that ground-level ozone must also be tackled.
Early 2015 saw a step backwards in the battle against Shanghai air pollution.
Government officials told a conference on pollution that the average density of PM2.5 pollutants rose 14% to 66 ug/m3 in the first three months of 2015 compared to the first quarter of 2014.
According to the report: "The increase was mostly due to dust from building sites, vehicle emissions and a fluctuating climate.”
The situation had improved by the end of the third quarter of 2015 by which time the average concentration had dropped to 50.4 ug/m3, so lower than 2014's annual average of 52 ug/m3.
Unfortunately, the good times did not last. Due to severe air pollution in the last quarter of 2015, Shanghai's annual average PM2.5 concentration came in at 53 ug/m3, a 3.14% increase over 2014.
This increased the pressure on Shanghai government authorities in their battle to reduce the annual average PM2.5 density to 49.6 (a 20% reduction from 2012 levels) by 2017; a commitment they made in the Clean Air Action Plan of 2013.
Shanghai's annual average PM2.5 concentration was 60.7 ug/m3 in 2013. This was far off the China air quality standard for healthy air of the PM2.5 average within 35 ug/m3 and even more worse than the much stricter WHO standard of 10 ug/m3.
Shanghai's PM2.5 concentration that year, however, was still much better than Beijing's annual average concentration of 89.5 ug/m3.
While Shanghai air quality worsened in 2015, Beijing air quality saw a big improvement. However, Beijing’s annual average PM2.5 density in 2015 was still 80.6 ug/m3, much worse than Shanghai’s average of 53 ug/m3.
So is Beijing air pollution really much more unhealthy than Shanghai air pollution? Not for sure!
In studies conducted by Chinese scientists, PM1 particles, which are much smaller than PM2.5 particles, were shown to have much more serious consequences for human health. Though PM2.5 levels are lower in Shanghai than Beijing, PM1.0 concentrations are actually worse in Shanghai than Beijing.
So expats still need to be concerned about Shanghai air pollution and be sure to make use of the many air pollution solutions available here.