City Profile: Hangzhou

Sub-research questions:

  1. What are the causes to pollution in Hangzhou? When and how did it start?
  2. What is the general consensus of pollution in Hangzhou? Do people think it is malicious? Are people worried about the effects?
  3. How harmful is the pollution? If high, then how many people has it hurt so far, and what are the effects? What are the effects on the environment?

Hangzhou:

Hangzhou is a place that I've lived in for a year now. Exploring West Lake, traveling to Tonglu, Tongzhou and more, Hangzhou has become my second home. Albeit the time I reside here will be 1/15, or 6% of my current life, it is still dear to my heart. And one of the problems that this city faces which summons upon frown on my face is the pollution. After analysing multiple cities and their pollution levels; i.e Los Angeles and Shanghai, I have discovered many things about pollution. I will first talk about my view of pollution in Hangzhou, and how I see it after living here for 10 months. First things first; the pollution is at a terrible state at the moment. Just yesterday I played ultimate frisbee with a few friends in near toxic air. The AQI (air quality index) levels were around 205; being very unhealthy on Chinese standards. In the United States, 202 would be emergency levels, just to put it in perspective. Yesterday, two of my classmates (both of which have asthma) also suffered from one of the worst attacks they had experienced in Hangzhou so far. These are my two anecdotes to describe my, 'experience' with the pollution levels here. But there are scientifically proven effects that are able to be described in more detail. The first one is the main effect of pollution.

Pollution in Hangzhou:

As aforementioned, my two friends had experienced terrible asthma attack yesterday, which shows the effects of it on people's breathing everyday. The PM2.5 in Hangzhou (all around the world as well) penetrate lungs quicker than tungsten bullets does to metal. PM2.5 causes intense respiratory illnesses, and extreme cases causes lung cancer. But very common symptoms that all citizens face, regardless of age; are coughing and irritation with the throat. People with respiratory-related problems undergo even more malicious attacks to their systems; as mentioned above my two friends faced extreme pain just yesterday. Through a video by Chai Jing (柴静), Chinese journalist, we are able to see the effects of pollution on people around China. She also puts together a short animation displaying what the PM2.5 does to the body. It is depicted as an assassin, crawling into your lungs (through the mouth and throat) and attacking many of your white blood cells (the ones that prevent diseases). This could be seen as an over-exaggerated animation, but is it really? The pollution is at extremely unhealthy states at this present time, and attacks people viciously. The government has not taken much action on trying to alleviate continued effects of pollution; so it is still prevalent and harmful.

Maps:

This pollution map shows the AQI levels around Hangzhou (For today). This could be counted as a 'good day' in Hangzhou, albeit the air is still quite harmful to sensitive bodies; such as people affected by asthma or other respiratory diseases. As seen below, the points with 104-107 are the more industrial areas of Hangzhou. These higher-level polluted areas have a correlation with their location. Since they are more industrial zones; i.e downtown Hangzhou, there is more traffic going in and out of the city. Since cars, jeeps, trucks, and other vehicles are one of the main contributors to the pollution in Hangzhou (as they emit greenhouse gases and other harmful particles) these directly correlate with the PM2.5 concentration in their area. As also shown below, the areas with lower levels of pollution (i.e 85 down south in the Culture Park) could be explained. Since it is more green land and less city-like, the air is cleared of the Co2 from the city, and replaced with oxygen due to the abundance of trees in the area.

Surveys conduction with residents:

Question 1: What are your thoughts on the pollution levels in Hangzhou?

1. Living here for one year, I believe that pollution is pretty bad here. I personally don't have any respiratory issues/illnesses, but I know of friends who have been affected. I think the pollution levels are quite high in contrast to other locations in China, such as way up north in Heilongjian province, or to the west. Compared to my current home (Hong Kong), the pollution here is really bad. In Hong Kong, the usual 'high', or 'unhealthy' standard is 70-80, and on most days there are around 40-50. But in Hangzhou, I feel after cloudy and rainy days the pollution goes from 100 all the way to 300.

Question 2: Is the current situation severe? Do you know anyone or know of anyone, who has been affected by the pollution?

2. I think the situation is quite bad now. My asthmatic friend has been heavily affected by asthma on somedays, and considering that he is a seasoned athlete this is extremely malevolent towards his effectiveness as a football player. I know that even people who are unaffected by these respiratory illnesses are affected on bad days; as they would start to cough or have uncomfortable throats.

Question 3: Do you think this situation should be quickly solved? (i.e the community or government taking steps to solve the issue)

3. I think we should try to solve this problem as soon as possible. People in their city (Hangzhou) are afraid to walk outside the door, as they are afraid of the air that contaminates the air. The government should definitely start to be concerned about this issue, and what it's doing to this beautiful city.

I conducted an interview with my friend and classmate, Dominic Law. Like me, he has moved from Hong Kong to Hangzhou for one year (boarding school), and I asked him about his opinions on pollution. What I gained from this survey was that; other people (like me) are also extremely concerned about this issue. They believe that this problem should be alleviated, and future levels have an opportunity to be mitigated but only if the people start to take action. The government also needs to set this as one of their prioritized problems, due to the fact that it is slowly corrupting the city, both physically and mentally.

Statistics/Data:

Evident from the data shown above, I can see the pollution concentration is overall higher in Hangzhou in comparison to the other main city in China, Hangzhou. The PM2.5 concentration levels in Hangzhou are shown to be 9 points higher than the ones of Shanghai. PM2.5 is one of the most harmful and unhealthy contaminants that float around in the air. PM10 is also a harmful chemical; and is also widely abundant around these two place, but higher concentrated in Hangzhou; of course.

Explanation and Analysis:

In conclusion, pollution in Hangzhou is deadly. Containing more harmful chemical concentration in the air than other unhealthy cities in China, the PM2.5 concentration, or Air Quality Index is 120 on average, and 105 on a 'good day'. These are already very bad levels for other cities in the United States, to put into perspective.

Other than damage to our health, what else does pollution do to the environment?

Global warming: Pollution is a direct carcinogen to global warming. It causes it, promotes it, and is slowly destroying our world. Habitats, nature, animals, are all dying because of this; and a main cause of it is because of us, the pollution-causers.

Acid rain: Because carbon monoxide and other harmful chemicals are released into the air of the cars and factories, it mixes in with the air that is in the sky. This is called atmospheric inversion, where the pollutants and chemicals are stuck in the sky. After being stuck, it starts to rain these harmful chemicals, damaging our health, and the environment.

Dominic Law; my interviewer, carries the same thoughts and hopes for pollution as I do. He, like many others, believe that pollution here in Hangzhou is a extreme problem. People far and wide in Hangzhou are being affected, and people whose respiratory systems are already weakened are one of the main targets of pollution. He also believes that this is a problem that needs to be alleviated and fixed as soon as possible, because people's lives were at stake.

I have conducted research regarding the pollution levels in Hangzhou, and their effects. But to answer my question; what are the most effective ways to eradicate/alleviate pollution levels in Hangzhou? First off, one of the most effective ways to stop future continuation of pollution across Hangzhou is to carpool, or use public transportation for your everyday needs. Believe it or not, it is that simple. By taking public transportation such as buses or trams, we reduce the amount of cars that are used everyday and this does something great for the environment. Since cars and other motorised vehicles are one of the main sources of pollution; as they are the main emitters of greenhouse gases and other harmful chemicals in the air, if we just cut down the amount of cars we use every day, we can cut down these emissions everyday, which would really help the state of the issue. This task in my opinion is extremely feasible, but the problem is that, the solution does not rest in anybody's hearts. In the previous investigation that I conducted, one of my interviewees stated that the solution and the need to change starts in the hearts. Currently this solution is feasible, but the question is, who will do it?

Another solution to air pollution in Hangzhou is less consumption/burning of fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels are used through simple energy/electricity consumption in somebody's home, factories, and cars. Harmful chemicals are released into the air when fossil fuels are burnt incorrectly, and therefore resulting in it being harmful to the environment. One way to cut down on the fossil fuel consumption is to simply switch off lights, and other high-electricity demanding resources in your house when they are not in use. This could 1; cause you to pay overly high electricity bills for electricity that you didn't formally 'use', and harm the environment, because the continuous burning and consumption of the fossil fuels for energy.

The future isn't looking good for Hangzhou; and I wrote this poem with this beautiful city in mind.

What did we do to go so far down the wrong road?

I guess it was the abuse;

No, not the drugs, not the alcohol.

The environment;

So much of the focus was on the people themselves,

and not the physical, tangible, beautiful world that we lived in.

They probably didn’t figure out there was no environment, if there were no people.

It aggravated.

Like a bull being taunted with red cloth;

It charged at us.

Water was toxically green and black.

The air was no longer aquamarine;

We said our goodbyes to Mr. Blue Sky.