Beijing air ‘met Olympic standards’

Air quality in Beijing in the first half of August met the standards required to host the Olympic Games, according to city officials.

Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection told a press conference last week that air quality had been the best for any summer in the last ten years.

According to the state-owned Xinhua News Agency, the city’s air quality fell into the top two brackets of the Chinese air quality monitoring system between August 1 and 18.

“Of the 18 days, Beijing reported grade I air quality in nine days, and in the other nine days, the air quality was grade II,” Mr Shaozhong told journalists last week.

He added: “These figures prove that measures to improve air quality for the Beijing Games, particularly the temporary measures to cut emissions, have been playing a positive role.”

In the Chinese air quality monitoring system, grade I is excellent, with an air pollution index reading from 1 to 50, while grade II is fairly good, with a reading from 51 to 100.

Figures released by the bureau at the weekend said air quality had remained in these two brackets until the final days of the Games.

Before the Beijing Olympics, the city had taken drastic measures to try to curb the air pollution. The municipal government had invested more than 140bn yuan (US$20.5bn) on more than 200 air quality projects since 1998.

Schemes included ordering about two-thirds of the city’s 3.3m cars off the road on alternate days based on their number plates from July 20 (see related story).

These regulations are set to remain in place until September 20, after the Paralympic Games finish.

There are now plans to continue some of the other measures beyond September, such as accelerating the removal and treatment of heavy-polluting vehicles and stepping up plans to reduce construction site dust, according to a report from China Daily.

Mr Shaozhong is reported to have told a news conference at the weekend: “Although the Olympic Games will end soon, the environmental challenges we face are by no means over.”

Kate Martin

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