Dealing with pollution has become an unfortunate daily reality for most of China’s residents. But while most Chinese are adapting to the extended smoggy days by buying air filters and wearing masks, one man in northern Hebei province isn't taking this lying down.
Li Guixin has become the first person in China to sue the government for failing to curb the nation’s rampant air pollution, a state-run newspaper announced on Tuesday. Li, hailing from Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, which is just outside Beijing, is holding the government’s environmental body responsible for the country’s ongoing hazardous air problems. Li has officially submitted his complaint to the district’s court, saying that the Shijiazhuang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau has failed to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law,” local Yanzhao Metropolis Daily reported. It’s unclear if the courts will accept Li’s lawsuit.
Li is seeking compensation from the government agency for all local residents who have been affected by the pollution that has blanketed much of northern China. “The reason I’m proposing administrative compensation is to let every citizen see that amid this haze, we’re the real victims,” Li said. Major lifestyle changes and additional expenses have been necessary to adjust to the pollution, he said, citing face masks, air purifiers and a treadmill so he can exercise indoors on days when the pollution is particularly bad.
“Besides the threat to our health, we’ve also suffered economic losses, and these losses should be borne by the government and the environmental departments because the government is the recipient of corporate taxes; it is a beneficiary,” he explained.
Over the weekend, Beijing raised the local air pollution alert to an "Orange Level" after several days of smog consumed the city’s skyline. “Orange” is the second-highest level on the country’s new color-rating system, and it pushes most residents indoors. The nearby Hebei province, known as a major industrial hub, has been identified by researchers as a main source of air pollution in the area.
For the government’s part, it has enlisted countless experts and researchers to find a way to alleviate pollution, but the environmental problems seem to stay the same, if not getting increasingly worse.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Hebei government announced last September that it would ban new projects in certain high-polluting industries and close multiple outdated steel and cement factories in hopes of cutting coal burning.