Smog, fog or ‘humidity haze’

The haze is back in Beijing. At the weekend the China Daily was rejoicing about how all the anti-pollution measures had worked (we had one and a half days of fairly clear skies over the weekend) but on Monday the skies were grey again and visibility was down to about one kilometre.

The China Daily didn’t mention anything about the haze yesterday, but today carried a story acknowledging that the haze was back, and criticising the western media for calling it ‘smog’.

A spokesman for the Chinese government was quoted as saying that the air was safe to breathe as it was in the 50-100 ‘moderate’ bracket on the pollution scale and that it was not ‘smog’ but a ‘humidity haze’.

In a story in the South China Morning Post (a Hong Kong daily that is not controlled by the Chinese government) environmental activists accused Beijing of fudging the figures and claiming that their own measurements showed that the air was in a ‘danger’ zone above 250.

So who do you believe?

Based on my own experience of living in Kuala Lumpur and experiencing smoke haze for 11 years from the illegal burning of rainforests in Indonesia, the present haze seems to me to be something around the 150 level. So maybe both the Chinese authorities and environmentalists are fudging the figures a bit.

Where the Chinese government loses credibility is the fact that any reading under 100 is classified as a “blue sky day” – yet there has not been a hint of blue in the sky since the weekend (see picture below).

If the above is classified by the Chinese government as a “blue sky day” then I guess some people might think that the government is trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

A government official was only yesterday proudly announcing that Beijing had had 154 “blue sky days” this year. Now it’s 155 – but I wonder on how many of those 155 days the sky looked like that in the picture above.

If the government was a little more honest about what is blue and what is grey, then maybe people would start to believe their pollution readings.

Torch bearers in Tiananmen Square

Beijing spick and span for the Olympics