(NaturalNews) Like the United States more than a century ago, China is currently undergoing its own industrial revolution, which is bringing industry, jobs and newfound prosperity to hundreds of millions of Chinese.
But like the United States, circa 1914, the environmental regulations necessary to prevent permanent damage to its ecosystems -- not to mention the health of its population -- are lacking in China, as evidenced by the continued degradation of living conditions in some of the country's largest cities.
One of China's cities most affected by the country's new affluence and extreme economic growth is the capital city: Beijing, where experts say the air quality is rapidly deteriorating.
But it is a problem that the Chinese government may finally be tackling with some seriousness. A recently released government report found that pollution is so severe in Beijing that it is "barely suitable" for living, thanks to decades of rapid industrial growth.
As reported by Reuters:
Pollution is a rising concern for China's stability-obsessed leaders, keen to douse potential unrest as affluent city dwellers turn against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has tainted much of the country's air, water and soil.
The report, by the Beijing-based Social Science Academic Press and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, ranked the Chinese capital second worst out of 40 global cities for its environmental conditions, official media reported [recently].
City overly polluted for more than six months in 2013
How bad is it? Smog in some Chinese cities has brought them to near standstills. Flights have been delayed. Some schools have been forced to shut down.
As for the capital city in the world's second-largest economy, it has been hit by severe levels of smog and air pollutants at least once per week, according to the 2012 Blue Paper for World Cities, a report that monitors, among other things, levels of pollution. That came on top of significant levels of air pollution besieging the city for 189 days last year, according to Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau.
Thus far, the Chinese government's record of dealing with the messes made by its industrialization and rise in affluence has been spotty, at best. And you would think that, in an authoritarian style of government, getting policies "approved" and in place would be much easier than in a representative republic, where competing political and business interests often collide.
Still, the government said in early February that it planned to establish a 10 billion yuan ($1.65 billion) fund to combat air pollution and that rewards would be offered to companies that cleaned up their operations.
More from Reuters:
Overall the government has pledged to spend over 3 trillion yuan ($494.85 billion) to tackle the problem, creating a growing market for companies that can help boost energy efficiency and lower emissions.
Beijing will also shut 300 polluting factories this year and publish a list of industrial projects to be halted or suspended by the end of April, state news agency Xinhua said.
China's record of food contamination is growing
Besides having a record of environmental pollution, Chinese companies also have a track record of peddling substandard goods, and that is especially the case when it comes to foods.
As I reported last summer, some of the contamination found in Chinese foods is so bad that, now, even Chinese parents are avoiding Chinese-made products for their babies. In fact, the widespread avoidance could even be responsible for Chinese parents having to live with excessive price gouging.
Industrial pollution is getting so bad that, in some places, crops are being grown in contaminated soil. In May 2013, Reuters reported that yet another food scandal had arisen with the discovery of dangerous levels of toxic cadmium in rice that was being sold in the southern city of Guangzhou.
That followed reports that the contaminant melamine was found in Chinese dairy products in 2010, along with heavy metals discovered in rice and garden veggies in the vicinity of an industrial zone in Jiangsu.