Beijing (AsiaNews) - Environmental pollution in China
kills more than smoking cigarettes: in 2013 it resulted in 257 thousand premature
deaths in 31 provincial capitals and municipalities of the country. This is an
average of 90 victims per 100 thousand dead, a huge number compared to other causes
of death. The statistics increase in 12 of 31 cities under consideration: in
Shijiazhuang, Nanjing, Tianjin and Chongqing it touches 100 deaths per 100
This was revealed by a joint study between Greenpeace and the University of Beijing, which focused on deaths caused by micro-particles contained in the vaporous industrial waste. The main cause of the blanket of smog is in fact PM 2.5 (Airborne dust particulate matter 2.5 micrograms per cubic meter) caused by industrial production and intensified by the arrival of winter. The cold brings with it the ignition of millions of central heating systems and radiators, which in turn increase coal consumption in power plants.
The statistics recorded, denounce experts, represent a "substantial increase" compared to data related to smoking, recorded in 2012, which stop at 70 deaths per 100 thousand. Furthermore, "the true dimensions of the problem may be even greater, given that the most polluted cities were not included in the study." The reference is to the province of Hebei, the industrial heart of the country.
The central government is aware of the problem but seems unable to solve it. On several occasions President Xi Jinping called on the industry to "think green" and - on paper - has tightened sanctions on companies and executives who deliberately pollute. However rampant corruption in local government has taken away all power from the central directives especially in the energy market: in China, "the world's factory", 70% of energy is produced thanks to a highly polluting coal.
In 2014 the former Health Minister Chen Zhu penned an article for the important medical journal The Lancet in which he admitted that environmental pollution causes each year, across the nation, between 350 thousand and 500 thousand premature deaths. However, a study published in the same journal earlier claimed the victims of smog numbered 1.2 million for 2010.