Beijing Banned 2.5 Million Cars and the Sky Turned Blue Again

Beijing residents have seen a lot more blue recently.

On August 20, Beijing put restrictions on factory production and car use, resulting in 2.5 million less cars on the road.

The result? Residents saw blue skies for the first time…in a long time.

Leading up to the 70th anniversary of Japan’s WWII defeat on September 3, five million cars were forced to drive on alternating days. In addition, 40,000 construction sites in and around Beijing were also shut down for the duration.

Not only were the skies suddenly blue instead of a drab grey, residents could see buildings in the distance that are usually hidden by a thick smog.

The absence of 2.5 million cars makes a major difference: an international standard for measuring the severity of air pollution dipped to 17 out of 500, signifying very healthy air. During the ban, Beijing’s average levels of PM (particulate matter) dropped by 73.2 per cent compared to the last year.

The blue skies, however, were short-lived. The day after the restrictions were lifted, Beijing’s air quality index hit 160, a level at which “everyone may begin to experience some adverse health effects,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Forget the canary in the coal mine, we’re talking about not being able to see the sky. And Beijing should probably start listening.

All photos courtesy of CNN.