Air pollution and Kunming’s prevailing rainy season wind patterns

Anning PetroChina

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This image shows prevailing wind patterns during Kunming’s rainy season which runs roughly from May to October.  Strong southwesterly winds bring monsoons from the Bay of Bengal over the Burmese landmass into Yunnan province.

The red rectangle in the southwest corner is the site of the PetroChina oil refinery, the focus of a series of recent environmental protests by concerned Kunming residents.  GoogleMaps has detailed imagery of construction site’s layout.  The purple area to the north is Kunming’s city center, determined by the area inside of Kunming’s 2nd ring road and home to a population of approximately 2.5mn.

Winds passing over the 10 million ton PetroChina oil refinery will send toxic pollutants directly over Anning city and Kunming’s most populated urban districts.  Anning is Kunming’s largest satellite city with an urban population of 100,000.  Kunmingers often drive to Anning to soak in its famous hot springs (also predictably in the pollution path), but in the last 10 years, most of Kunming’s heavy industry moved to Anning in an attempt to reduce pollution in the Dianchi Lake watershed.

After passing over Anning, winds become more concentrated and pick up speed to shoot through three passes in the Xishan (Western Hills) mountain range.  The solid line represents the most voluminous wind channel.  It doesn’t take an expert to see that the oil refinery site was chosen at the most optimal point for dumping pollution onto Kunming.  Perhaps this is why city officials are reluctant to release data from the project’s legally mandated environmental impact assessment.

To make matters worse, a strong southerly lake effect wind, constrained by Kunming’s eastern hills, pushes all westerly winds northward into the city center as they break over Xishan mountain range.  This guarantees that nearly all winds that pass over the oil refinery site through Kunming’s downtown and finally into the city’s north district, home of an additional 1.5mn residents.  Kunming’s north district, currently undergoing a major urban facelift, is planned as one of the city’s new core urban centers with a projected population of 3 to 4 million residents by 2020.

3 Comments

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3 Responses to Air pollution and Kunming’s prevailing rainy season wind patterns

  1. Pingback: Hao Hao Report

  2. Aya !!!
    do we know when the oil factory will be build ? and operationel ?
    Is there a chance that they do not build it ?

  3. East by Southeast

    Hi William. Reports with information on the completion of the refinery are varied. The latest date for completion that I’ve seen is by the end of 2014. We can assume operations will begin after that. Currently, the construction site is an open pit with zero structures built. Construction has not been put on hold, but its coming along slowly. Protesters hope the refinery is moved out of the Kunming municipality, but that is very unlikely given the windfall tax revenues the refinery will generate for the municipal government. This refinery is at the terminus of a 2800km pipeline running from the Burmese coastline through Burma and SW Yunnan and finally ends in Anning. The entire project is of strategic importance and high priority for the central government in Beijing and is sponsored as a key national project. See ExSE’s past posts for further analysis. But it is possible for the refinery to be moved to a location that minimizes pollution on Kunming’s urban area. And its even more possible for the regulators to enforce China’s existing environmental laws which will decrease pollution regardless of where the refinery is built. However, weak political institutions in China see that both profits and pollution is maximized. Kunmingers will have to wait and see.

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