BEIJING’s Daxing International will be the largest airport on the planet when it opens for business in 2019. <RENDERING – Zaha Hadid architects> DAXING will have eight runways, and will be able to serve up to 100-million passengers annually. Over the next 20 years, commercial passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific region is forecast to increase by 1.8 billion, the same amount for the rest of the world combined. Three big commercial service providers — Air China, China Eastern & China Southern — are already vying for space at Daxing in Beijing’s southern suburbs.
In a HONG KONG gallery I came across this painting a couple of years ago. It was called “Beijing Sky”. The bad dream portrayed is a reality again this week (January/2017) in China’s capital city.
In the above NASA image taken on November 30/2015, BEIJING is buried under clouds and a stifling smog. Thick layers of cloud are tinged grey and yellow caused by China’s massive output of greenhouse gases. Coal-fired electricity plants are plentiful on the city’s outskirts and ring roads are jammed.
<A woman wears a face mask next to traffic shrouded in heavy smog – Getty Images>
The numbers are staggering. Canadians cannot imagine a supercity bigger than Uruguay with a population of 130-million. But, in an effort to rein in ultra-expensive BEIJING, the Chinese government is expanding the surrounding region and incorporating the port city of TIANJIN (population 8-10 million) and the hinterlands of Hebei Province into one.
<PHOTO ABOVE – the port city of TIANJIN> BEIJING will be the creative and cultural centre of the 82,000-square-mile megalopolis, with TIANJIN providing economic muscle. Satellite towns and cities will be connected by high-speed rail. Already 25-storey housing blocks are stretching to the horizon, so this project is well underway.
<PHOTO – high-speed rail, Tianjin to Beijing> Much has been written about the plan – the latest being a New York Times article with photos and a video. The address – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/20/world/asia/in-china-a-supercity-rises-around-beijing.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1&gwh=F3C087331CB90C718B35CF1C3515C6D5&gwt=pay&assetType=nyt_now
In 2002 when BEIJING and TORONTO were bidding for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing had 70 km of subway; Toronto 68 km. Thirteen years later, Beijing boasts 527 km and 320 stations serving 18 lines. TORONTO still has 68 km of track, with six new stations opening soon. Of course the two city regions aren’t the same size – Beijing’s population is 20-million; the Greater Toronto Area 6-million. But 18 lines – wow!
Thanks to the US Embassy, Beijingers now know how toxic the air over their capital can be. Yesterday, the Embassy’s Air Quality Index, using North American standards, reported an ohmygosh reading of 755 at 8 pm. The World Health Organization deems a score above 500, to be more than 20 times the level of airborne particulate matter considered safe.
According to the New York Times, residents described the air as “post-apocalyptic”, “terrifying”, and “beyond belief.” The American Embassy’s pollution measuring machine (which, according to a spokesman, was functioning perfectly) and its Twitter feed are unpopular among Chinese officials. In 2009, a Chinese Foreign Ministry officlal, Wang Shu’ai told the Americans to halt the Twitter feed, saying it “is not only confusing, but also insulting.” (WikiLeaks)