I have been worried about CTB going into darkness over the last few months and weeks. Well this week a different kind of darkness rolled into Shanghai. As you may already be aware from the news reports pollution levels have been extremely high. Beijing has had the most attention with bad air, but due to its location in a valley it is more likely to have trouble since the pollutants easily get trapped and settle. Shanghai is closer to the sea and pollution is not always as severe. I hardly noticed it before that is until this year. It was here, but rare.
When you think about the population of the city (close to 24 million permanent residents) and the increasing numbers of cars on the road it is no wonder the city has pollution. I started to count ‘blue sky days’ like at home where we count ‘smog days’. The sun comes out, but it is always hazy. Few days are completely clear with blue sky and clouds. Now some of that is also the moisture in the air due to the location of Shanghai on the East China Sea and part of the Yangtze River delta. The city is also divided by the Huangpu River. Summers are sticky humid and winters are mild, but so damp you swear it was 5*c or more colder than what the thermometer shows.
I have noticed the pollution more in the last 12 months or so. With increasing levels our school has also started to monitor conditions and days where levels are high asthma students stay indoors (orange level or unhealthy for sensitive groups according to the US consulate in Shanghai) and other outdoor activities are limited. Some days when the levels are highest (red –unhealthy) we treat it like a rainy day and everyone stays inside. The worst day this week was red or maybe even the highest level purple. I could feel it in my nose and throat. From my classroom we could barely see clearly across the street, never mind the skyline of Shanghai. The sun was not visible and you felt like we were in a thick fog; darkness even in the middle of the day.
Thank goodness something changed and the next day things improved and we were back to orange levels. Not great, but at least bearable. The temperatures went up a bit too this week and I wonder if that helped as heat was turned down, or off. The Economist.com is citing that a colder winter (I think earlier too) and different and unlucky wind patterns have contributed to the woes of many cities across China seeing an increase in pollution levels.
Many locals wear face masks and they are sold along with hats, mitts and scarves come winter. I was told they were for cold weather, not pollution. I bought one this year and it makes a difference to block the wind when driving the scooter. Now sales are increasing as people are wearing them while exercising, walking or just out of doors.
According to http://www.shanghaiexpat.com/community/index.php/2007/12/05/air_quality_smog_and_shanghai?blog=5 smog has actually improved over the last few years with many factories moving inland and to other cities. They claim the dust and particulates in the air come from things that are being burned as well as construction which is extensive in Shanghai.
It has been a busy return to work after Christmas and today I decided to open the drapes, enjoy the view and veg out inside. Good excuse staying indoors and lounging in my jammies all day, don’t you think?