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New environment minister praises former reporter's smog documentary

IN his first public pronouncement since becoming China’s new environment minister, Chen Jining praised Chai Jing, a former China Central TV reporter, for her “Under the Air” documentary on air pollution.

Chen said he watched the documentary on Saturday night, just hours after it was released online. He said he had sent Chai a short message thanking her for her efforts to educate the public about smog, Xinhua news agency reported.

The former president of Tsinghua University has been involved in environmental protection research for a number of years and has advised the government on the subject. The documentary has been viewed almost 100 million times since it was released.

In her documentary, Chai says she has decided to make the million yuan (US$ 160,000) documentary about haze and smog in China after the birth of her daughter.

“I couldn’t help worrying while seeing the polluted sky in Beijing and even used a handkerchief to cover her nose, which was stupid because she would have to breathe more deeply and inhale more pollutants,” Chai says.

“I didn’t wear a mask in polluted days before. After holding a new life in my hands, I started to worry about the air quality,” she says.

“I had to keep my daughter at home like a ‘prisoner’ when it was polluted in Beijing, which suffered a total of 175 polluted days in 2014.”

Chai says she tried to answer three questions in the documentary: what is haze, where does it come from and what should people do.

She has visited regions with the worst pollution, checked official data and talked to officials and experts. She also went to London and Los Angles, which had both suffered air pollution in the past, to learn how they had improved their environment.

On a visit to Hebei Province, a major coal user and steel producer, she used equipment that detects 15 cancerous pollutants in the air that were 14 times more than the nation’s limit.

She also found that the coal used in China was not clean coal as in Western countries and that it generated extremely high levels of PM2.5 particles and other harmful pollutants.

She has raises questions over the administration of China’s environmental watchdog and the development and use of clean energy development.

In the documentary, Chai says that everyone should be involved in the fight against smog and talks to workers at a construction site, asking them to control the dust they generate, reports a restaurant to local officials because of its uncontrolled smoke emissions and calls environmental watchdogs about excessive fumes at a gas station.


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