New film on China's pollution sparks debate, seen as milestone

Mon Mar 2, 2015 6:35am EST
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By Alexandra Harney

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Could "Under the Dome", Chinese journalist Chai Jing's new documentary about pollution, become China's "Silent Spring", the 1962 book that spurred the development of the U.S. environmental movement?

Since it was released online on Saturday, the film has been viewed more than 150 million times and has sparked a national debate on environmental problems.

"Under the Dome", which explains air pollution in personal, straight-forward terms, was well-timed: this week China's National People's Congress, the country's parliament, holds its annual meeting.

China's environment minister, Chen Jining, drew parallels between Chai's film and "Silent Spring", the ground-breaking book by American journalist Rachel Carson.

"This is a remarkable milestone," Li Yan, Beijing-based climate and energy campaign manager for environmental group Greenpeace, said of the film.

Chai was a well-known journalist on state-run television before making the documentary.

Environmental awareness has been increasing in China, especially since air pollution levels in Beijing hit record highs in January 2013, a phenomenon dubbed the "airpocalypse".

The documentary has touched a national nerve.   Continued...

Birds fly past the chimney of a thermal power plant as China's national flag flutters in a suburb in Shanghai January 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Aly Song/Files