A 150-kilometre traffic jam on the road to Mongolia
More than 10,000 vehicles, mostly lorries carrying coal, are stuck on a freeway leading north. The government is unable to find a quick fix because the road network is old whilst Chinese are buying cars like crazy. The environment is left to pay the price.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – A monster traffic jam continues to grip the freeway to Inner Mongolia. More than 10,000 vehicles, mostly lorries carrying coal, are stuck in a 150-kilometre gridlock. State television reported that the highway to Beijing and the neighbouring province of Hebei was now more like a “car park” than a road. The jam started on Tuesday after traffic restrictions were enforced in Hebei, where an earlier large-scale traffic jam occurred.

The situation has been made worse by the fact that other roads feeding into the freeway are becoming themselves bottlenecks. The authorities have responded to the crisis by urging drivers to stay off the roads.

However, those already stuck in the gridlock have set up small tent cities with their own entertainment and social life.

Just a week ago, the authorities struggle with another monster traffic jam, 100-kilometre long, which lasted a week.

On the long run, the problem is bound to get worse because of the number of Chinese buying cars, especially in the cities, a rate of 20 per cent more a year, a huge percentile if one considers that China’s freeway date back to the 1970s.

At the same time, Chinese authorities have few tools at their disposal to solve the problem. Indeed, as much as they fear giant traffic jams, they fear even more the possibility that foreign carmakers might pull out of the country. This is having a huge impact on the environment.

According to a recently released study by the Oslo-based Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, overall CO2 emissions are down (- 1.3 per cent) around the world for the first time in a decade, but they are way up in China and India.

The mainland in fact is now the world’s worst polluter with 24 per cent of the global fossil emissions of CO2, up by 9 per cent. The United States is second with 17 per cent and the European Union follows with 11 per cent.

Other emerging economies like Brazil are contributing to the problem. In India, for example, emissions rose by 6 per cent.