Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beijing claims success for clean air drive

Beijing claims success for clean air drive
By Richard McGregor in Beijing
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: August 21 2007 15:39 | Last updated: August 21 2007 15:39

Beijing’s removal of up to 1.3m cars off the road in recent days in a test run of measures to ensure clean air at the 2008 Olympics was declared a success by city officials, who said major pollutants from autos dropped by up to 20 per cent.

The city reduced the number of cars on the road by about a third over four days starting last Friday, by designating alternate dates on which vehicles with odd-and-even number plates could be driven.

“The results indicate the measures we took during the four days had a good impact,” said Du Shaozhong, a spokesman for the city environmental bureau.

“'The tests have made it very clear that we are capable of providing good air quality by the time of the 2008 Olympic Games.”

The results announced by the government were at odds with the appearance of the air in Beijing during the test period, which was thick and hazy, with the near horizon shrouded in smog, as it often is in the Chinese capital.

According to the benchmark used by the city, the air quality rated a ‘two’, or ‘fairly good’, on a scale of one to five, with five being the worst.

The still and humid conditions over the test period made “emission diffusion” difficult, officials said, and without the removal of the cars, the air would have been worse.

Air pollution was a major issue in the lead-up to the Los Angeles, Atlanta and Seoul Olympics, and the IOC has said events could be delayed if the pollution in Beijing is too severe.

Although Beijing’s surging car numbers, now expanding at a rate of about 1,000 a day, are often blamed for the city’s poor air, there are numerous other factors both in and outside the city.

The city’s largest industrial complex, Capital Iron & Steel, for many years the city’s largest polluter, has been mostly closed and shifted into neighbouring Hebei province.

But Hebei can contribute up to 70 per cent of particulate matter in Beijing’s air with a sustained southerly wind, according to a recent paper in the publication Atmospheric Environment.

Industry, cars and a string of new coal-fired power stations in surrounding cities and provinces are all major contributors to Beijing’s air pollution.

“Controlling only local sources in Beijing will not be sufficient to attain the air quality goal set for the Beijing Olympics,” the paper said.

Among the many ideas under discussion to keep the air clear is a plan to switch part of the electricity grid to use wind-power from nearby Inner Mongolia, while shutting down some coal-fired stations.

This might help clear the air and also give the games an environmental lustre, a theme organisers are keen to promote.


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