App Aims To Shame Chinese Polluters, Allows Citizens To Track Pollution (VIDEO)

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(Photo courtesy of WikiMedia.)

BEIJING — An interesting new weapon has just been offered the Chinese people — information. Once again turning Big Brother in on itself, the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) launched an app Monday that shames corporate polluters by allowing citizens to track pollution rates from region to region, company to company on a daily, even hourly basis.

Simply called the Pollution Map app, where and whenever available, the app provides hourly emissions updates reported to local authorities by the factories themselves in 190 cities, and will include color-coded points on a map indicating the various plants and factories in vicinity of each. Factories in violation of emissions rates are indicated in red. In addition, the app offers air pollution data throughout the country straight from the Chinese government.

This is the first time, the first attempt to track and collect all of the real-time data from the roughly 15,000 factories nationwide that the Environment Ministry requires to report. Such data has been mandated as public since the beginning of the year. Since then some local governments have begun posting the information on their websites, but none of it has been unified into an approachable, easily understood resource until now. Much of this comes on the heels of the Communist Party pushing economic growth too quickly without regard to environmental impact. As a result, many Chinese citizens have simply had enough, and what better initial tool for them to have than information?

Senior project manager at IPE Gu Beibei said air quality data was not entirely user-friendly or accessible in the past for most, however, she said:

“…if the air quality is bad you can switch (to the factory map) and see who is in your neighborhood. It will be a very effective tool for people to voice out their concerns.”

According to the Associated Press, New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) member and director of the NRDC’s China Environmental Law Project Wang Yan stated that it is unprecedented for China to publish “real-time PM2.5 data and polluters’ monitoring data.” Wang feels arming residents with actual data can help protect them from corporate dishonesty and clue them in to heavier pollution periods. She added:

“When subject to public scrutiny, unreasonable and illogical data can be identified by environmental groups or experts with certain professional knowledge and skills.”

Only three years ago China kept their PM2.5 data secret. PM2.5 are essentially tiny airborne particles used to gauge air quality. Today, however, such data is now integral information in published air quality indexes.

And that’s just the point. Certainly this app would be useful on a worldwide scale, no? Opening day for IPE’s app showed 370 industrial companies were in violation for excessive emissions already. Let Big Brother begin to find itself lost in a house of mirrors, that we might begin to breathe again and see the light of day.

You can view a desktop version of the app here.