Beijing’s skyline is a marvel to look at. The numerous skyscrapers, including the iconic Fortune Financial Centre and China World Trade Centre, seem to race each other to dizzying heights. The view leaves those watching from the ground in a daze.
However, from a distance, this spectacular skyline could vanish within minutes. Every other day sees smog in varying degrees enveloping the city.
The rapid industrialisation and development of China unfortunately came with a tradeoff. Environmental degradation and air pollution are now a major concern. The Chinese authorities are doing their level best to address the problem, but they seem to not be able to keep up with the rapid pace of development.
While Malaysians back home are struggling with severe haze, the situation here is much worse.
In Malaysia, the problem is a seasonal one, occurring due to the open burning activities in neighbouring Indonesia. In Beijing, however, haze is a regular occurrence, one due to the smog released by multiple pollutants in the capital city.
The air pollution index (API) readings here can easily reach highly dangerous levels of above 300 during the daytime. This is much higher than the average reading of around 200 that was recorded in Malaysia recently, which was considered dangerous enough to call for the closure of schools.
HAZE CONSTANTLY PRESENT
It has become the norm for city folks to consult the API before going out so that they could take the necessary precautions.
Fortunately for me, the API here can be checked in realtime as many of the Chinese brands of mobile phones, such as Xiaomi, come embedded with an app that updates the API for users.
Besides the index, the app also tells users whether the air quality allows for outdoor activity or whether it is better to remain indoors and reduce the level of activity.
The data provided is highly reliable as it is provided by the China National Environmental Monitoring Centre.
THE CHALLENGE BROUGHT BY HAZE
The haze makes traveling around Beijing in pursuit of stories a great risk for my health.
Fortunately, the Chinese authorities have taken several efforts to improve air quality in the city, of late. This includes relocating polluting factories, limiting car ownership and substituting coal with clean energy.
Despite the haze woes back home, I believe Malaysians should still be glad that they are able to enjoy fresh air for most of the year.
It has been a sombre experience watching Beijing’s skyline disappear into smog on a nearly daily basis, but I was told that soon autumn would make its way into “spring”.
During a long weekend recently, due to the National Day celebrations, I noted Beijingers heading to the outskirts of the city to spend more time in the nature.
I, too, followed the crowd and ended up at the Fourth Orchid Exhibition held at Fangshan district, on the outskirts of Beijing. Fangshan district is located in the west, about 38km from the city.
Over 50,000 orchids from various provinces of China are being displayed on a 20-hectare space from Sept 29 to Oct 10. It is indeed a breathtaking scene.
For the Chinese, the orchid represents spring. The flower is symbolic in the Chinese culture and has been greatly presented by Chinese scholars in paintings and poems in ancient times to express integrity, nobility and friendship.
The orchids tend to stand among plum blossoms, bamboo and chrysanthemums, also known as the four noble plants in Chinese culture.
The exhibition featured attractive sculptures of flowers and plants welcoming visitors at the entrance, while the halls showcased the beauty of orchids from various provinces.
Among them are orchids from Guangdong, Tianjin as well as Guizhou, Yunnan, Fujian and Sichuan in the south.
Besides fresh flowers, the exhibition also displayed paintings and calligraphic works of orchids including from the Palace Museum and Xu Beihong Painting and Calligraphy Institute.
The event also served as a platform for industry players to promote the use of orchids in medication and teas. Its fragrance is also sought after by perfume and incense producers.
Held every two years, the exhibition was first organised by the Orchid Society of China in 2007 and aimed to further develop China’s orchid industry.
The exhibition is a microcosm of China’s rich plant biodiversity, as well as a place to simply view and appreciate the beauty of the species. It has been attracting over 12,000 visitors daily. – Bernama