China’s Air Pollution And Scrapped Vehicles

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China has been cracking down on high-emission vehicles in an effort to reduce pollution, leading to an increase in the number of recycling centers and scrapyards where cars, trucks and buses that did not pass the annual inspection are piling up in huge numbers. In recent years, air pollution and smog in particular, has become a big health hazard and threat to daily life and the Chinese government has vowed to wage a battle against air pollution, actively pushing for green upgrades to vehicles and setting ambitious carbon-cutting targets.

One of China’s most attractive city Hangzhou, which has a reputation of unparalleled natural beauty and cultural prestige and home to around 4 million people, suffers from airborne pollution for well over half the year. In 2013, the city registered 239 days of smog pollution, or almost 90 days more than the annual average. Over 40% of the particulate matter suspended in air comes from vehicle emissions, a share that reflects residents’ rising average incomes, which have increased fourfold in fifteen years. This has created an increasingly affluent society with a correspondingly increasing private car ownership. There is now roughly one car for every two people in Hangzhou.

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Old taxis are abandoned in a scrap yard in Chongqing. Photo credit

Hangzhou’s smog is exacerbated by a scarcity of high-quality fuels. Since January, all new vehicles nationwide have been expected to comply with National Standard IV fuels, a criterion that theoretically guarantees seven times fewer sulphur emissions than the previous standard for diesel and three times less for gasoline. However, Standard IV only represents 3% of the total amount of fuels currently sold in China. Hangzhou residents can probably afford the better quality fuel, but due to the lack of availability cars continue to run on low-grade, high-emissions fuels.

The municipal government has reacted by removing from the streets thousands of old vehicles that do not meet minimum emissions standards. Hangzhou’s mayor recently announced the roll-out of 2,500 new energy public transport vehicles. A city-wide metro system is already in place, but Hangzhou’s burgeoning middle class prefer to ride their own cars.

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A man walks through motorcycles and electric bicycles destined to be destroyed at a dump in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. Photo credit

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Motorbikes are piled up at a scrapyard in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Photo credit

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Scrapped vehicles are piled up at a parking lot used as a scrap yard in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Photo credit

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Hundreds of seized motorcycles are seen at a scrapyard in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Photo credit

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High-emission vehicles are piled up at a dump site in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province. Photo credit

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Old delivery vehicles are abandoned at a scrapyard in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Photo credit

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Scrapped motorbikes and trailers are seen piled up at a scrapyard in Binzhou, Hunan province. Photo credit

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A labourer disassembles motorcycles at a recycling centre in Hefei, Anhui province. Photo credit

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A worker dismantles seized motorcycles in Haikou, Hainan Province. Photo credit

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Old taxis are scrapped in Changsha, Hunan province. Photo credit

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China’s air pollution isn’t just limited to Hangzhou. Here is Beijing. Photo credit

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Buildings are shrouded in smog in Lianyungang, China. Photo credit

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In the northern city of Harbin, smog forces schools to cancel classes, and authorities to close down the airport and certain bus routes. Photo credit

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Sources: China Dialogue / Huffington Post

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