Eating preserved pork and sausages represents a long-held tradition in southwest China's Chongqing and neighboring Sichuan Province, with many households making smoked bacon in advance of the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on February 19 this year.
Beginning on January 20, Chongqing's environmental watchdog joined forces with public security, city planning, and food and drug authorities to stop bacon smoking across the municipality, in a bid to clean the air and curb acrid smog, as the city's PM2.5--airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that can lodge deeply into the lungs and pose health risks if inhaled--readings have soared exponentially of late.
This ban has caused a wave of controversy around the country, particularly in the southwest, where preparing smoked bacon is a centuries-old tradition.
Some argue that blaming bacon smoking, as opposed to massive industrial pollution, auto exhaust and dust in construction sites for smog and bad air quality demonstrates the local authorities' reluctance to face up to the underlying roots of air pollution.
Others say that even though bacon smoking might have contributed to local air pollution, it nonetheless represents an entrenched tradition, and it's improper to suddenly impose a ban without taking into account people's sentimental connection to ancient customs. Perhaps some cleaner ways of making smoked bacon must replace the old ways.
Missing the point
Lei Ruoyu (www.cnhubei.com): Smog can be caused by a multitude of factors. Environmental protection authorities in Chongqing need to identify the main sources of pollution before working out an effective scheme to fight back. The real contributors of pollutants, which in turn lead to smog, lie in industrial production, auto exhaust fumes and dust from urban construction. However, dealing with these contributors is far from easy. Industrial companies often provide huge sources of tax revenue, and auto exhaust fumes arise from the plethora of cars on the streets.
Presumably after some thought, the environmental authorities recognized that bacon smokers represent much easier targets at which to apportion blame. Environmental pollution will be alleviated if proper methods are employed to carefully deal with it. However, if environmental protection authorities fail to make progress in addressing the more problematic causes of pollution and are busy admonishing fringe causative elements, the final consequence may be environmental disaster.
Tuo Xingang (Changsha Evening News): Though bacon smoking instinctively seems highly polluting, the actual air pollution it causes is quite limited. According to a three-day survey conducted at a dozen bacon-smoking sites by Bayu Public Welfare Development Center, a non-governmental environmental protection organization, smoking meat does contribute to air pollution, but only to a small degree. According to the results of the survey, the impact of the smoking process is confined within a 50-meter radius.
It therefore seems ridiculous to cite bacon smoking as a major contributor to air pollution. Today, there is still no consensus on what
exactly may have resulted in smog, but one thing is certain: Traffic and industry are likely the major candidates, while family cooking is unlikely to emit significant levels of smoke or particulates.
Dealing with air pollution is not an easy job. Technical and institutional deficiencies can frustrate efforts, but a misleading anti-pollution policy may pose the biggest hindrance. In Los Angeles, local authorities spent 50 years regulating petroleum companies and automakers to rein in smog. Instead of facing up to more deeply rooted causes, environmental authorities in Chongqing are pointing the finger at bacon smoking. In short, it is highly questionable to what extent banning bacon smoking can help clear up smog.