Long Blog 2- Air pollution in Hangzhou

Recently when I was internet surfing on Zhihu (It’s like the Chinese version of Quora) I saw a people posted a photo and asked, “ What is the grey layer that wrapped the City of Hangzhou? Is it haze?”

This is the photo from Zhihu, taken by the user “If donut can walk”

I scroll down for the answers, and people are all saying it is haze as the particulates that make up haze are heavier than normal air so it will always subside. The photo itself didn’t give me a strong impression when I saw it at first glance, but when I looked at it carefully, I trembled a little as the haze seemed to surround all city without notice, it felt like it has always been a part of the atmosphere.

I sent this photo to my grandmother and called her to ask if this has been going on since she was young. She gave me a subtle “no” on the answer and said the sky was always blue and she can see fireflies in the night, but now only the grey skies and she haven’t seen any fireflies in years. The view from before to now is totally different.

The photo of Duanqiao (it’s a very famous bridge of Hangzhou) from 1960s, Sohu News
Photo of Duanqiao surrounded by haze taken in 2015, Zhejiang News

History of City Expansion and its relation to Air Pollution

In 1960, Hangzhou’s city plan department suggest building more heavy industries and the city should be expanding more (Luo, 2014).

And they really did that.

It’s the map of Hangzhou from 1981, Sohu News
Map of Hangzhou in 2017, Sohu News

From 1981 to 2017, around forty years, Hangzhou has expanded from 430 KM² to 8002.8 KM², which is 18.6 times bigger.

The unbelievable explanation was because, a lot of nearby districts, cities, and rural areas have been added to Hangzhou for further urbanization, as Hangzhou’s municipal government’s goal has always been to develop Hangzhou into a megacity (Sohu News).

The great expansion in areas and fast urbanization process also caused population explosion. As of 2019, there are 10.36 million people live in Hangzhou (Hangzhou Gorvenment, 2020), which is almost one-third of Canada’s population.

The population boom and fast urbanization are strictly related to the haze problem as haze are mostly caused by human activities like automobiles and industries’ exhausts(Chinese Academy of Science, 2017). The exhausts contain massive amounts of PM 2.5 (aka the particulate matter that smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter), and due to PM 2.5’s ability to penetrate deep into the lungs (because it’s small enough), it has been credited as an important cause of serious illness such as stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, and respiratory infection. It has caused 4.1 million death in 2016 from those diseases because of exposure to pm 2.5 (Health Effects institute. State of Global Air 2018). Sadly, Hangzhou is one of the big cities that contributes to this data.

“In 2019, the population diagnosed with lung cancer is increased by 9.18%” (Hangzhou Municipal Health Commission, 2020)

My grandmother complained about the health issue during our phone call too. She said nowadays the population of getting lung cancer is fastly increasing. Her friend’s son has just passed away at the age of 48 last year. And now she is worried about my grandfather and herself.

The harm caused by air pollution is irreversible, both for humans and the environment. People and their loved ones deserve relief from suffering from bad air quality. And as a grandchild, it is really sad to see grandmother has to worry so much.

Peer-reviewed Article:

Tian, L., Hou, W., Chen, J., Chen, C., & Pan, X. (2018). Spatiotemporal changes in PM2.5 and their relationships with land-use and people in hangzhou. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(10) doi:http://dx.doi.org.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/10.3390/ijerph15102192

News & other resources:

State of Global air 2018 https://www.stateofglobalair.org/sites/default/files/soga-2018-report.pdf

Hangzhou’s development and history https://wenku.baidu.com/view/2fc3bd047e21af45b307a8f4.html

Sohu News https://www.sohu.com/a/242591836_650579

Hangzhou Government http://www.hangzhou.gov.cn/art/2020/3/16/art_805865_42297976.html

Chinese Academy of Science http://www.ieexa.cas.cn/kxcb/kpwz/201703/t20170317_4760035.html

Hangzhou Municipal Health Commission http://wsjkw.hangzhou.gov.cn/art/2020/4/17/art_1229113673_47501208.html#:~:text=2019%E5%B9%B4%E6%9D%AD%E5%B7%9E%E5%B8%82%E6%88%B7%E7%B1%8D,%E5%8F%91%E7%97%85%E7%8E%87%E9%AB%98%E4%BA%8E%E5%A5%B3%E6%80%A7%E3%80%82

Photos:

https://www.zhihu.com/question/265646626

https://www.sohu.com/a/114303199_349110

https://zj.zjol.com.cn/news/72357.html?from=timeline&isappinstalled=0

U of T First year