Beijing issues first major smog alert of winter

admin   •   January 16, 2018   •   4208

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles using lights travel on a bridge amid heavy smog after the city issued its first ever ”red alert” for air pollution, in Beijing, China, December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

China’s capital Beijing imposed stringent measures to curb output of heavy industry as plunging temperatures spurred heating demand.

This, after Beijing, issued its first major smog alert of the winter for the capital.

The orange alert issued on January 11, the second-highest on China’s four-level system, comes after Beijing was reported to have made big improvements in air quality last year as industrial activity shifted away from the capital.

The ministry of environmental protection warned in a statement that heavy air pollution would envelop Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and the surrounding area from Friday until January 17.

“I think it has greater impact on the lungs of old people and kids. For example, if an old person has chronic bronchitis, he [she] must react violently when he [she] come outside in the weather like this. about the kids, they are so little bodily still not fully developed, and that is why it has greater impact on them too,” said Yang Lilin, a local who works in Beijing.

The capital has been largely spared the notoriously bad air that typically blankets the north during the colder winter months when people crank up the heat in their homes in part to the government’s stringent anti-smog measures, including curbing factory output and banning coal burning in homes.

But this alert comes a month after the government was forced to reverse its ban on coal for heating as gas shortages left people freezing and after a prolonged bout of freezing weather across the north. — Reuters

From rice fields to trash fields: Indonesian farmers find profit in pollution

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

Once home to rice farmers and their luscious green paddy fields, this Indonesian village is now a dump for truckloads of rubbish.

As Indonesia looks to tackle the country’s growing mountain of trash, the residents of East Java’s 200-hectare Bangun village have found a way to reel in profit from the problem — by opening their gates to garbage trucks and choosing to turn their fertile fields into rubbish sorting plots.

The health and environmental repercussions for Bangun village might be huge, said non-government organization, Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation (ECOTON), which has been observing the issue in the area for the last five years.

Now, more than 60 percent of the village residents have opted to enter the rubbish sorting business, and for the time being, that looks unlikely to drop.

“If I’m farming, I need to wait three months to get results, but if I’m sorting rubbish, we can make money in a day, two days or even a week,” said one farmer, Siti Maimanah.

On average, a worker in Bangun can earn between $7-14 per week picking through the sea of paper and plastic, and that can rise to $35 if the piles are particularly high – a tempting proposition when the farming alternative would leave them waiting with nothing for weeks on weeks, said Maimanah.

Ecoton said it has obtained evidence that the garbage in the area is imported from at least 54 countries around the world, including Europe, the United States, Australia, and Asia, under the pretense it is ‘paper waste’. Reuters found plastic packaging amongst the piles, including from Canada and the United States.

That’s adding on top of the huge amount of garbage the world’s fourth-most populous country with 260 million people generates on its own.

Earlier this year, the city of Surabaya sent back more than 200 tonnes of trash to Australia and U.S. as part of efforts to push back ‘foreign trash’ amid a spike in imports from Western countries after China banned imports.

“Our country has been labeled a dirty country and now America is adding their rubbish on top. Sending this garbage is clearly a violation of the law,” said Ecoton’s protest coordinator, Prigi Arisandi, during a recent protest in front of the U.S. consulate in Indonesia’s second-biggest city, Surabaya.

The archipelago of more than 17,000 islands has been struggling to cope with the waste, with much of it going into landfill and often eventually seeping out to pollute rivers and oceans. According to a 2015 study published in the Science journal, Indonesia was the world’s second-biggest contributor of plastic pollutants in the oceans.

The mountain of trash in Bangun village is also not going to vanish overnight despite the government’s efforts and plan to set up waste-to-energy plants across the country.

And for now, Indonesians like Maimanah say their day-to-day survival is far more important than the environment. (REUTERS)

(Production: Prasto Wardoyo, Heru Asprihanto, Angie Teo, Natasha Howitt)

Microplastics contaminating air, scientists warn

Robie de Guzman   •   August 16, 2019

German and Swiss scientists have published a study suggesting that microplastic is being blown vast distances through the air and dumped when it snows, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet.

The team, from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), analyzed snow samples in Germany, the Swiss Alps and on the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to confirm that the snow in all places contained high concentrations of plastic fragments, known as microplastic.

“It’s readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air,” lead researcher Melanie Bergmann said in a press release.

The highest concentration in samples was collected in a rural area in Germany’s southern province of Bavaria, totaling to 154,000 particles per liter. The snow in the Arctic contained up to 14,400 particles per liter in comparison.

Researchers found particles of nitrile rubber, acrylates and paints containing plastics in their snow samples.

The study, published on Wednesday (August 14), is reinforced by research conducted by a U.S.-led team of scientists in the Northwest Passage. The team found the material trapped in ice taken from Lancaster Sound, an isolated stretch of water in the Canadian Arctic, which they had assumed might be relatively sheltered from drifting plastic pollution.

Eighteen ice cores of up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) long were drawn from four locations, containing visible plastic beads and filaments of various shapes and sizes.

The plastic fragments serve to highlight how the waste problem has reached epidemic proportions.

The United Nations estimates that 100 million tonnes of plastic have been dumped in the oceans to date. (REUTERS)

(Production: Barbara Woolsey)

PH to explore new cooperation, partnership with China

Robie de Guzman   •   April 25, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday (April 25) that the Philippines will seek “new areas of cooperation and partnership” to further strengthen its diplomatic ties with China.

Duterte said this during his bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum being held in Beijing from April 25 to 27.

“The Philippines [and] China must continue to work together to explore new areas of cooperation and partnership. We look forward to a productive discussion on matters of mutual interest and concern,” Duterte said in his opening statement for the bilateral talks.

“The decision to elevate bilateral ties to a comprehensive, strategic cooperation affirms the Philippines and China’s strong desire to further deepen and broaden this engagement,” he added.

Duterte is one of the 35 leaders and heads of international organizations who are currently in Beijing to participate in the second Road and Belt Forum.

This is the fourth time that Duterte visited China since winning the presidential election in 2016.

Duterte also said the Philippines remains keen on executing the projects that were agreed during Xi’s visit to Manila in November 2018, in line with the vision to implement high-quality and good impact projects.

“The sooner they are completed, the sooner people on the ground will feel the benefits of Philippine-China relations,” he said.

For his part, Xi said he is happy to see better relations between the two countries and that the Philippines is an important part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

After his bilateral talks with Xi, Duterte will meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Duterte arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for the four-day visit. He was accompanied by several of his cabinet members, his partner Honeylet Avanceña and daughter Veronica. — Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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