Cover Stories - Clearing the Air: The Skinny on Air Pollution in Hangzhou - More Hangzhou Restaurants, Reviews, Places to go and what to do in Hangzhou. More Hangzhou Entertainment Guide
Home>Archive>2016>Clearing the Air: The Skinny on Air Pollution in Hangzhou

Clearing the Air: The Skinny on Air Pollution in Hangzhou
By Noah Willingham

Throughout the winter we here at MORE Hangzhou have been monitoring the polluted state of affairs throughout the country. We’ve watched as Beijing shut down its schools and issued red alerts for air quality for the first time ever. We witnessed the elusive “beyond index” readings on our AQI apps. In short, we’ve lived through the second “Airpocolpyse”. Whether you are just passing through or are a longtime dweller, you know that Hangzhou is known for its greenery, the trees and the beloved Xihu. Unfortunately, Hangzhou’s beauty misleads people to think that Hangzhou does not have a pollution problem comparable to that of Shanghai or Beijing. However, in Hangzhou, which lies in the heart of one of China’s major manufacturing provinces, pollution is a reality here.

AQI and Other Quality Questions
For most people, this is your barometer. Each morning you wake up and look at that app on your phone, and if that number is above 150, you know the air out there is unbearable. If it’s below 150, you’ll take advantage of that crystalline day and go for a run. Unfortunately, while 150 is reasonable in Hangzhou, it is not very good at all. The WHO standards for safe air is 25 μg/m3. So 150 is still six times what is considered healthy. While you may religiously look at that number, you may not entirely understand what it means, or what it represents. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, it really is confusing. Let’s take a look at some of that now.

AQI
First, it is important to note that there are different standards to determine AQI in many countries including China, USA, Canada, India and Europe. For continuity, I will base the below off U.S.A. standards because the highest number on the scale used in China (500) is based off of the old American formula, which China now uses. In contrast, the highest number on the UK scale is 100.

Second, a common misconception is that people often equate AQI solely to the particle count; however, AQI is a composite number that represents six different components of the air being tested. The six things are: O3 (Ozone), PM 2.5 (µg/m3) (particles of Particulate Matter 2.5 microns and below), PM 10 (µg/m3) (particles of PM size 10), CO (Carbon Monoxide), SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide).[i] All of these components, when measured in either parts per million, or parts per billion, and averaged out over a standardized period of time (1 hour for some, 8 and 24 hours for others) make up the AQI reading you see. AQI is very technical, but it is helpful for providing a reference point.

When you see the AQI number, you should now understand that it is not only referring to PM 2.5 but also all of these other nasty particles that make up the air you breathe daily.

PM 2.5: Above and Below
PM stands for Particulate Matter, and 2.5 is the size of the particle measured in microns. Particles come in different sizes, as small as 0.0001. Some particles are easily trapped by objects like hair and mucus in your nose, while some particles come and leave quickly through a sneeze. Other particles are significantly more dangerous because they can enter directly into our lungs and even into our bloodstream; obviously, these are the ones we need to be worried about.

PM 10 is a relatively larger particle. Pollen, pet dander and heavy dust particles usually sit at the PM 10 mark. These particles make you sneeze. While PM 2.5 is a very small particle. Smog, oil and smoke particles are around 2.5 microns.[ii] These fine particles are the reason industrial air pollution is such a serious concern. The primary cause of PM 2.5 is the burning of fossil fuels. However, almost anything that burns, including cooking, candles and cigarettes, releases PM 2.5. Infrequently discussed, but PM 0.5 sized particles are also very dangerous. These particles are so small that they can directly enter your bloodstream, which can cause a variety of health problems. When looking at particulates, these are absolutely the kind we should be most concerned with. They cause all of the same problems as the PM 2.5 but are reasonably more difficult to capture because of their tiny size.

Air Pollution in Hangzhou
"
We don't need to worry too much about air pollution here in Hangzhou; it’s a serious problem in “dongbei”, Beijing and Shanghai."

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were actually true! Unfortunately, it isn’t. Air pollution is a serious problem here in Hangzhou. In fact, most studies consistently rank Hangzhou as one of the top cities in the country for poor air quality. Not quite the distinction we’d like to be known for. According to one study, Hangzhou came in at number 24, just one spot below Shanghai, the 23rd most polluted city in China.[iii] With over 40 cities with a population of over one million people, our position on the most polluted cities in China list is startlingly high.

When looking at the annual average PM 2.5 level (micrograms per cubic meter) intake, Hangzhou citizens are breathing in about 66.1μg/m3, or about 2.5 times the WHO standards for ambient air quality of 25 μg/m3 24-hour mean.[iv] To give it some perspective, the average annual mean in Paris in 2008 for PM 2.5 was only 22.9 μg/m3. In March of 2015, when Parisians were in an uproar over the quality of their air, the peak PM 10 levels were 120μg/m3.[v] During late December 2015, when Iran shut down its football league because of air pollution, the AQI was 132. At the time of writing this article on a very average Sunday, January 17th, the AQI in Hangzhou as reported by aqicn.org was somewhere between 104-150, with a strong possibility of reaching over 200. That is a pretty standard day in Hangzhou.[vi] Bottom line, Hangzhou’s air is nowhere near as clean as most people believe it to be.

Why is Hangzhou’s air so bad?
In China, one of the largest sources of PM 2.5 is burning coal for power. We in the 南方 (south) are not provided with heat, and while that may make our winters a bit chilly, it does help reduce the levels of PM 2.5 in our air. However, PM 2.5 is an extremely small and light particle, capable of traveling hundreds of miles, so just because we’re in the south doesn’t mean that we aren’t exposed to the pollutants released in the North.

Wind patterns, weather and geography all seriously influence the air quality. When the wind is blowing from the West/Northwest, it is carrying those (北方) particulates down to Hangzhou. When we get a wind coming from the East/South, we’re still getting pollutants from places like Ningbo, Shanghai, Wenzhou and all of the factories to the South. So, we actually get hit pretty hard on all angles. Another issue is simply our geographic location within Zhejiang. A tremendous amount of production happens here. We are one of the top producers of goods in the country, and with production and factories comes emissions and pollution. Zhejiang is a large player in the manufacturing of chemicals, garments, fibers, plastics, and metals, all major industries with a lot of pollution.

It’s been reported that Hangzhou had over 200 days of smog in 2013. Much of this is due to weather and geography, but up to 40% of it comes from vehicle emissions. Hangzhou has the highest per capita car ownership in the country. The problems caused by emissions from these cars are serious, especially in Hangzhou. Hangzhou is a city on the rise with substantial construction and development that also unfortunately means our city faces some of the most congested traffic conditions in the country. Traffic, while annoying in your daily commute, is also responsible for a lot of the particulate matter in our air. Constant acceleration and braking releases a lot more exhaust (particulates) than when you are moving at a steady rate.[vii] We all know that when you are in a car in Hangzhou between the hours of 7am - 10pm, there is a lot more time when you are accelerating and breaking in traffic than moving smoothly. This too contributes to Hangzhou’s bad air.

Purifying Misconceptions
A common misconception about the pollution here in Hangzhou is that frequent rain cleans the air. Again, this is unfortunately not true. According to a study conducted in Hangzhou by Pan Xiaochuan, a professor at Tsinghua University, the rain has little to no effect on levels of particulate matter in the air. After large storms, it is the accompanying wind, not the rain, that clears the pollution. As an aside, those silly water cannons that some cities have bought to clear pollution, also have little to no effect (other than wasting a ton of water).[viii]

The last common misconception we’ll address is on the merit of using houseplants as a purification method. An often cited study that is used in the defense of plants was done by NASA, an extremely reputable source. However, that study was conducted in a completely sealed space, meant to emulate the space station where these plants would be growing. None of our homes are truly sealed. There will always be airflow regardless of how well we seal doors and windows. It’s for this reason that you must leave your air purifier on when you are home and want clean air. Tests have been done in Beijing that show that even in a house with lots of plants and no air purifier the level of particulate matter in the house closely mirrors that of the outside air. It is only with the addition of a purifier that the particulate level decreases. This is by no means a reason to not have houseplants; they are good for a whole host of other reason, but just not for purification purposes.[ix]

All of this can be pretty distressing, so read on for the good news!

What can I do to protect myself?
Purifying the air in your home and office is a great way to start. By some accounts we spend 90% of our lives indoors, and this makes it crucial to protect the spaces in which you spend the most time. Air purifiers do remove particulates from the air. How much they remove and how quickly they do so differs significantly depending on the purifier. Not all purifiers are created equally, and some are genuinely better than others. For instance, the super cheap machines on Taobao that claim to eliminate PM 2.5, as well as formaldehyde and maybe diabetes, and promise that you never have to change a filter and only costs 158RMB are probably not going to deliver all (or even any) of what they are claiming. We’ve done a lot of research and come up with a list of reputable brands: the Beijing-based social enterprise that ships 200RMB DIY Smart Air Purifiers, Philips, BlueAir and the IQ Air Health Pro Plus. Surprisingly, the Xiaomi is absent from that list. It was just reported by the Shanghai government that the Xiaomi did not meet the standards set for particulate removal or noise level. So it is probably best to avoid those for now.

More than a few people scoff at the idea of masks. They look silly, but they do work. There are tons of brands out there that will kind of make you look like Darth Vader but they will filter out particulates. In one oft-cited study done in Beijing they had several people walk around the city wearing masks, and another group walk the same path without masks. The data pretty conclusively shows that the participants wearing masks had lower blood pressure, a lower heart rate, generally expended less energy, had less difficulty breathing and were less apt to get dizzy or have headaches.[x]{C} [xi]{C} Those are all things that are of greatest concern to the elderly, pregnant women and children, but they are also just as important for any adult who wishes to remain healthy.

Like choosing an air purifier, masks can be difficult. What’s most important is finding a mask that fits well onto your face and doesn’t leave much room for air to penetrate. Those dinky cotton ones simply don’t cut it. Brands like Vogmask and Respro sell expensive masks that are decently efficient at filtering out PM 2.5. However, 3M masks that are rated N95 or above, are still the absolute best masks on the market. These masks are certified to remove at least 95% of particulate matter. They are also exceedingly cheap, which is a good thing when you are talking about something that you consistently sweat and breathe into. In fact, 3M masks will work well for a long time, probably longer than you will want to continue to wear it. We had the privilege to test mask that had been used normally for around three weeks, and it was still about 80-85% effective, or about as effective as a brand new Respro mask that can cost 350RMB. New products like the Mini-lung are coming on the market all the time. They are pretty and probably effective (that can’t be said conclusively since a lot of those products don’t have data publicly available), but hardly anything can beat a 3M 9332 in terms of comfort, cost and effectiveness.

Breathe Safe Out There!

[i]{C} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_quality_index
[ii]{C} http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/air/pmq_a.htm
[iii]{C} http://www.travelchinaguide.com/climate/air-pollution.htm
[iv]{C} http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/69477/1/WHO_SDE_PHE_OEH_06.02_eng.pdf
[v]{C} http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/23/paris-smog-pollution-emergency-measures-traffic
[vi]{C} http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/27/iranian-football-matches-postponed-as-air-pollution-soars
[vii]{C} http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/01/05/how-traffic-jams-affect-air-quality/
[viii]{C} http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2014-05/13/content_32367666.htm
[ix]{C} http://particlecounting.tumblr.com/post/65388796704/how-much-does-outside-air-pollution-affect-indoor
[x]{C} http://particleandfibretoxicology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-8977-6-8
[xi]{C} http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22389220

Noah Willingham has been living and working in Hangzhou for two years. He is a Princeton in Asia teaching fellow at Zhejiang University of Technology. He is most definitely not an expert in air pollution; however, he has learned a lot from working for the Beijing-based social enterprise Smart Air. Smart Air's mission is to provide knowledge about air pollution, free of charge, and low cost (200RMB) yet highly effective air purifiers all across China.

SHARE THIS
Latest 5 Stories

National Rollout of Burger King's Impossible Whopper

The Impossible Burger patty in a Burger King Whopper is the biggest bang so far in the galaxy of plant-based meats, and now that bang is even bigger: The Impossible Whopper goes nationwide at all 7,200 Burger King locations in the US on Aug. 8. After a successful test in St. Louis, which is battleground over the definition of "meat", the Impossible Whopper spread to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and other cities, but national rollout has always been the benchmark of a new era in fast food.

Nationwide availability of the Impossible Whopper does much to assuage concerns that plant-based patties are a fad, a concern cited as a reason that McDonalds hasn't yet made a similar move. When and if McDonald's does choose (really, anoint) a plant-based "meat" patty it will be a bellwether, thanks to the brand having twice the number of locations and nearly four times the sales as Burger King in the US. McDonald's introduced a McVegan in Germany using a plant-based "Incredible Burger" from Nestle that has all the hallmarks of clear broadside at Impossible.

The new McVegan made with Nestle's "Incredible Burger" debuted in McDonald's German locations shortly after the Impossible Whopper was announced.

While the big food chains offer burgers, tacos, breakfast sandwiches and soon bacon made with plant-based meat, an even bigger battle is shaping up in grocery stores. Impossible just cleared a major hurdle toward offering its plant-based meat in stores, thanks to a favorable FDA ruling over the safety of heme, the plant ingredient that allows the burger to "bleed." Barring any objections that offer new proof the heme is unsafe, Impossible could have its burgers in grocery cases by this fall.

Aside from a specially formed Impossible Burger patty that conforms precisely to Burger King's bun diameter, the Impossible Whopper features the same bun, cheese and condiments as a traditional Whopper.

The Impossible Whopper has moved from regional availability to taking its place on Burger King's main menu page.

"We're making meat from plants. That's never been done before," Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown told me, tacitly demoting competitor Beyond Meat's plant-based burger, which has been offered at most of the 1,100 Carl's Jr. restaurants since the beginning of 2019. "People have made plant-based replacements for meat, but they haven't made plant-based meat."

One way the Impossible Whopper will indeed differ from the original is price, costing a significant $1 more in an industry where brands have gone to war brandishing menus of items that only cost a dollar. As with electric cars, price parity with the established choice is a future linchpin to mainstream success.

On the left is the Impossible Whopper we hacked in Impossible's test kitchen. On the right, a traditional Whopper, indistinguishable visually and on the palate.

"Once we have products that taste the same or better and that cost less, plant-based and clean meat will simply take over," according to Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, which champions plant- and cell-based meats.

"So very little will change in people's everyday lives as more and more meat is produced either from plants or from cells. Consumers will continue to buy burgers, chicken sandwiches and sausages, [but] those products will simply not have the adverse impact on our environment and global health."

Impossible says its team spent an inordinate amount of time getting its burger to survive the "death-defying drop" at the end of the broiler-conveyor without breaking apart.

The Plant Meat Wars are Just Starting

Burger King doesn't break out sales figures for Whoppers, let alone its expectations for the more expensive Impossible Whopper, but some insights can be inferred from a 2018 survey by Faunalytics. Assuming price was no different between beef and alternative burgers, 65% of consumers polled said they'd still stick with beef, 21% would choose a plant-based burger like Impossible, and 11% would select a cultured burger grown from animal cells, which isn't expected on the market until the early 2020s.

But Impossible's Pat Brown feels such surveys leave out the qualitative experience. "If you give them our burger, and then ask them the question again, a very large majority of them say they would definitely buy it and would be willing to pay a premium for it."

Acceptance of plant-based meats turns not only on taste, texture and price but on overcoming momentum. Environmental and animal welfare arguments have triggered a million conversations and social media posts about meat's issues, yet US per capita meat consumption hit an all-time high in 2018.

A case of Impossible Whopper patties, the result of a long effort to comport to the realities of the fast food industry, not the other way around.

And while burgers are the American diet icon, steaks aren't far behind, and an even bigger challenge in alternative meat marketing may soon unfold at fast casual steak chains like Outback or Texas Roadhouse. Unlike burgers, steaks generally arrive on the plate unadorned, without bun, cheese or condiments to mask any shortcomings. Get steak right, so the thinking goes, and the plant-based dominoes begin to fall.

Source: CNET

HIS Celebrated with a Groundbreaking Ceremony at its new site

At the auspicious time and date of 10:08am, August 8th, Hangzhou International School (HIS) celebrated with a Groundbreaking Ceremony at its new site on Huxi Road (close to Yingcui Road). Students, Parents, Faculty, Board Members of the HIS Community attended along with a number of VIP guests, including Deputy Secretary General Of Hangzhou Mulnicipal Government, Mr. Cheng Hua Min, Deputy Secretary of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Ms. Zheng Li Min, Deputy Chief of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Mr. Mao Wei Min, Chief of Binjiang District, Mr. Li Zhi Long, etc.

Hangzhou International School (HIS) was first opened in 2002 at its current site in Binjiang, alongside the campus of No. 2 High School. HIS serves students from 2-18 years old and is the first International School and only IB and WASC accredited school in the region. The school enrolls over 700 students from over 50 nationalities. Graduates attend top universities around the world. The Director of School, Mr. Jeffry Stubbs, has worked with HIS for thirteen years and has seen the rapid growth of student enrollment over the past years.  As the current school has reached capacity, the new campus will accommodate up to 1300 students and include state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, including: 25-meter swimming pool, 650 seat theater, two soccer fields, three gyms, 3 libraries a design center, and separate early childhood facility.  The new school will also meet the highest ratings for energy and environment design.

Since 2017, Hangzhou International School (HIS) has worked in collaboration with the Hangzhou Municipal Government, Hangzhou Education Bureau and Binjiang District government, to establish a new facility for future growth.  In December 2017, HIS signed an agreement with the Binjiang District to lease land and build a new campus in the White Horse Lake area of Binjiang District.  The new HIS campus is located at the foot of beautiful Langdai Mountain and surrounded by water canals and park space.  White Horse Lake is located about a 15-minute drive from the current site.  While the current HIS has been a wonderful home with many memories and achievements, the HIS community is excited about the additional facilities and 21st century design of the new campus.

HIS is an IB World School that offers the expatriate community in Hangzhou an inclusive international experience and curriculum (Nursery to Grade 12) based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework. HIS is the first and only international school that is fully accredited by an international accrediting association and authorized by the IB. The school currently serves students from over 50 nationalities. As a community, HIS administration, staff, parents, and students work closely to achieve high levels of success for every child. Graduates attend prestigious universities throughout the world.

Flying Frenchman Successfully Cross the English Channel

Second time lucky: Daredevil French inventor Franky Zapata, 40, becomes the first person to successfully cross the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard a week after his first, failed attempt.

·   French inventor Franky Zapata has crossed the English Channel on a kerosene-powered hoverboard
·   The 40-year-old is the first person in history to complete the flight following a failed attempt last week
·   He landed on the White Cliffs of Dover after just 23 minutes of flight following takeoff at Sangatte, France

Flying Frenchman Franky Zapata today became the first person in history to cross the English Channel on a kerosene-powered board not much bigger than a tea tray – saying it 'feels magnificent!'.

The 40-year-old set off towards the White Cliffs of Dover from Sangatte beach, in Calais, at 7:16am UK time in front of a cheering crowd.

Within seconds he was soaring through the skies looking just like a high-tech version of Marty McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox in the ‘Back to the Future’ films.

There were shouts of ‘Allez le Flying Frenchman!’ and ‘Go Franky, go!’ including from Mr Zapata’s wife, Kystal.

And at 7:39am – 23 minutes later – the triumphant Mr Zapata landed at St Margaret’s Bay in Kent, saying: 'Frankly, this feels magnificent!'.

The army reservist and former Jetski champion lifted an arm in the air in triumph, shed a tear, and savoured his incredible success.

'There were no problems this time,’ he told waiting reporters. ‘Frankly, I’m tired – I’m not on holiday, but I’m elated. Thanks so much my team, and to my wife'.

'For the last five to six kilometres I just really enjoyed it. Whether this is a historic event or not, I'm not the one to decide that, time will tell.'

'We made a machine three years ago...and now we've crossed the Channel, it's crazy,' he said, before breaking into tears.

Ms Zapata had been left hugely disappointed on July 25 when he failed in his first attempt to complete the same 22.4 mile journey.

Then, he had crashed off a refuelling boat 12 miles into the trip, but this time a larger vessel and landing platform were used.

The self-styled ‘Flying Frenchman’ travelled at a speed of some 87mph, staying at least 49 feet above the water.

French naval vessels kept an eye out during the crossing in case of trouble.

Calais authorities also gave him permission to keep the refuelling boat in French waters, something they had refused the first time around due to safety concerns.

Temperatures were above 25C on Sunday, the sun was shinning brightly, and there was next to no wind or waves.

The state-of-the-art device, which was built from scratch, resembled a souped-up tea tray and could reach an altitude of 10,000 feet. It was powered by five turbojet engines.

Mr Zapata wore a flying suit inspired by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.

There was a maximum of 42 litres in Mr Zapata’s backpack, meaning he once again had to refuel half way across the Channel.

This meant landing on a boat, and swapping backpacks during a stop of no more than two minutes.

He added: ‘We created a new way of flying. We don't use wings. You are like a bird, it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream. We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation.’

Mr Zapata hopes his device will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware.

Last month, the board impressed crowds at France's annual July 14 Bastille Day Parade, where Mr Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde dressed as a soldier and brandishing a rifle.

The Home-made Hoverboard that Flies at 120mph and Can Reach 10,000ft

Franky Zapata's designed his home-made hoverboard himself, which is inspired by the flying suit worn by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.

Powered by five jet engines, the impressive 'Flyboard Air' can propel its driver through the sky at impressive speeds of up to 120mph and reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The state-of-the-art device, which he built from scratch, is powered by kerosene which is widely used as a fuel in the air industry.

Mr Zapata admits it is very similar to the hoverboard used by Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, in the Back to the Future films.

However, current models of the Flyboard Air can only stay airborne for about ten minutes on a single tank of fuel.

The impressive board operates via a small joystick and the rider must maintain a rigid body position while using small movements to help steer.

Last week, the Flyboard Air wowed crowds at France's annual Bastille Day Parade, where Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde, donning soldier's uniform and holding a rifle.

Mr Zapata now hopes it will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware - and he was even granted £1.26 million by France's Ministry of Defence to develop it.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that the board would be 'tested for different uses, for example as a flying logistical platform, or indeed as an assault platform.'

He previously broke a Guinness World Record by using the hoverboard to travel more than 7,388ft off the coastal town of Sausset-les-Pins - but was almost prosecuted by France's Civil Aviation Authority for the impressive feat.

He has since flown the Flyboard Air across a stretch of the Arizona desert.

Mr Zapata initially designed a board powered by water jets a decade ago, using a hose from the exhaust of a jet-ski to power an aerial device.

It can blast riders roughly 30ft above the waves, and allow them to perform somersaults and other tricks.

It has been in commercial production for several years now and is popular among thrill-seeking holidaymakers across the world.

Mr Zapata then spent four years developing a device that does not need to be connected to a jet-ski, so can fly over both land and sea.

Resource: MailOnline

New 2,000km Highway Through Russia Will Connect China to Europe

The missing link of the “New Silk Highway” is set to finally be completed. Construction has begun on a new highway that will stretch from Russia’s border with Kazakhstan to Belarus, serving as a critical part of the China-Western Europe transport corridor—an infrastructure mega-project that has been described as the “construction of the century.”

Once completed, the China-Western Europe transport corridor is meant to be the primary nervous system of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the overland portion of China's Belt and Road initiative. The corridor begins at the Chinese port of Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea and stretches along the Lianhuo Expressway, China’s longest road, to the Khorgos dry port on the border of Kazakhstan before moving through Russia en route to Western Europe. The corridor is meant to eventually combine road, rail and air transport hubs into a multi-modal ecosystem which could revolutionize the economic role of the central stretches of Eurasia and alter our paradigms of how goods are shipped between China and Europe. Ideally, this highway would allow trucks to travel between China and Europe in just eleven days, as opposed to 30-50 days by sea and 15 days by rail, making it the fastest overland option of the New Silk Road.

While the China-Western Europe transport corridor got its start in 2009, it was hamstrung by Russia’s reluctance to give its portion of the project proper attention and funding. For years, the corridor served as a high-speed transit route into the heart of Eurasia, rather than a bonafide “Silk Road” which properly connects the east with the west. Trucks would speed across China and Kazakhstan on one of the world’s most modern highways only to run aground at the Russian border, where they would meet head on with infrastructure of a more modest persuasion. However, the fortunes of this mega-project may soon change.

Dubbed the Meridian highway, Russia’s long-awaited portion of the China-Western Europe transport corridor is now under active development. It is to become a 2,000km toll road from the Sagarchin crossing point with Kazakhstan to the border of Belarus.

This new highway is slated to cost in the ballpark of $9.3 billion, with most of the financing coming from private firms rather than public coffers—although investors have sought $500 million of government backing to hedge against potential unforeseen political upheavals, such as the closing of borders. The main player behind the project is a Russian investment holding called LLC Meridian, a company that’s fronted by Alexander Ryazanov, the former deputy chairman of Russian gas giant Gazprom and current board member of RZD, Russia’s railway monopoly, who claims to already be in possession of 80% of the land the road is slated to pass through.

The Meridian highway is primarily being developed for cargo transport, and the main stream of revenue is expected to come from tolls, which Ryazanov estimates will take at least 12-14 years to recoup his company’s initial investment. However, the highway is also posited to generate a large amount of knee-jerk development along its route and create new jobs, in addition to reducing transport times from China to the west of Russia three-fold, according to the Russian Ministry of Transport.

One concerning aspect of the project is its geopolitical overtones. Jonathan Hillman of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, points out that the route of the new highway subverts Ukraine, which “would add to a series of Russia-led transport projects that limit Ukraine’s connectivity with the east." Political objectives adulterating transport routes and countries battling their rivals with large-scale infrastructure projects are nothing unusual on the New Silk Road. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, for example, takes a conspicuous long-cut around the contour of Armenia, further cutting the small country off from its neighbors and putting it on the outside of the trans-Eurasian cargo flows that are starting to trickle through.

Hillman also pointed out that Russia could improve the future of this project by removing glaring trade barriers in the Eurasian Economic Union. One of the biggest bottlenecks of the Belt and Road isn’t just the fact that there are gaps in key trans-Eurasian transport routes but Russian sanctions against the import and transit of many products that could otherwise be shipped overland between Europe and China, which has actually given rise to a competing new corridor that bypasses Russia to the south.

While Russia has always officially been a participant in China's Belt and Road initiative and the broader New Silk Road, the country's level of actual commitment has always remained in question. Spanning across much of the Eurasian landmass, Russian participation is necessary if China's Belt and Road is to flourish. Two of the major overland routes between China and Europe pass through Russia, and Russian and Belarusian transport companies are often the workhorses behind the scenes that actually make these corridors function. However, Russia has carried out policies, including the above mentioned sanctions, which run directly against the "win-win" nature of the Belt and Road, and have been prone to delay or otherwise hamper the development of key infrastructure projects that must pass through their realm. The start of the Meridian highway is a good indication of where Russia is leaning as the Belt and Road picks up momentum.
Source: Forbes

These Pools Failed to Pass the Water Quality Inspection

Last week, we posted an article titled “Do You Know How Much Urine is in the Swimming Pools?” The survey at the end of the article showed that more than 60% of respondents have peed in the pool.

Recently, the supervisors of the Municipal Health and Wellness Committee conducted random monitoring of 289 swimming pools in Hangzhou. The first list of pools that failed the inspection was announced. Let's take a look at them, you might have been to quite a few.

Remark: According to the "GB9667-1996 Swimming Pool Hygiene Standards", the standard value of free residual chlorine (pool) is 0.3-0.5mg/L; the standard value of urea hygiene is ≤3.5mg/L; the total number of bacteria is ≤1000CFU/mL.

The results are not all bad and there are some safe and clean swimming pools in Hangzhou. Check out the list of A-class swimming pools, and go ahead to have a nice swim.

A Little More to Know   

Free Residual Chlorine: The requirement for free residual chlorine is to ensure that the water in the pool has a continuous ability to disinfect and can inhibit the re-propagation of residual bacteria in the water.

Urea: Urea in the pool is mainly derived from our sweat, secretions and excretions. Excessive urea content indicates a higher degree of contamination of the pool water.

Total bacteria: The total number of bacteria can be controlled when there is enough disinfectant in the pool, the pH value is kept within the specified limits, the circulation of pool water is appropriate, the swimming pool filtration equipment is often cleaned, and the swimming pool hygiene management is strengthened.

Get Weekly Events to your Mailbox