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China Likely to Meet Air Quality Requirements for the Beijing Olympics

Posted by vmsalama on December 12, 2007

Switching things up a bit: Air quality is one of the major concerns plaguing China’s upcoming candidacy for hosting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.  The communist country vowed to pull some 1 million cars from the streets of its capital city in an attempt to improve air quality – if not for its citizens – then at least for the foreign athletes who will be spending the summer taking in fresh communist air. 

China Likely to Meet Air Quality Requirements for the Beijing Olympics
By Toufiq A. Siddiqi
Note: This commentary originally appeared in The Honolulu Advertiser on Dec. 11, 2007.
HONOLULU (Dec. 12) – There has been a great deal of concern expressed around the world about the air pollution in Beijing, and whether the Olympic Games can take place under such conditions. After visiting Beijing earlier this month and conferring with fellow environmental scientists there, it appears that the steps being taken to improve air quality will likely be adequate for holding the Games in August.
To begin with, many coal-burning industries have already been relocated to other parts of the country as a long-term approach to improving air quality in the capital. Some that still operate around Beijing will temporarily cease production around the time of the Olympics, which should result in removing a significant portion of the particulates and sulfur dioxide from the city’s air.

In addition, large construction projects that create dust, such as the ongoing expansion of the subway system to encourage greater use of mass transit, will probably be suspended during the Olympics.
Transportation is perhaps the largest source of poor air quality in the city, with the number of vehicles in Beijing now around 3 million and growing. For a few days last August, China tried an experiment in which only automobiles with even-numbered license plates could operate on some days, while those with odd-numbered plates could operate on others. Officials declared the test a success, since the air pollution index in Beijing was reported to have fallen to between 93 and 95 during the test days, as opposed to 115 the day before the test and 116 the day after. (China’s State Environmental Protection Agency considers an index below 100 to indicate excellent or good conditions, fit for all activities.)
It should also be noted that August is a month in which many Chinese take a holiday. The greater Beijing area now has a population of about 15 million, and the absence of many residents would mean less congestion on the roads, reduced demand for electricity and a corresponding lowering of air pollutants.
However, August is also a time when the prevailing wind direction in Beijing tends to blow in air pollution from surrounding provinces. Thus, major sources of pollution in those areas may also have to be temporarily shut down if weather conditions require.
Everyone is aware that the air pollution problem in China’s major cities will take many years to solve. But the Beijing Olympics are being showcased to introduce the world to a modern and self-confident China, and everything possible will be done to ensure that the Games are a success – including implementing the necessary measures to make certain that the air quality in Beijing will meet the requirements for competition.


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