Olympic officials say air pollutants have fallen

Major air pollutants from vehicles have dropped by 20% in Beijing thanks to vehicle restrictions for next month's Olympics, officials have said.

Du Shaozhong, deputy director with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, told a press conference that visitors would not need masks to protect them from pollution.

According to state-owned media, he said Beijing could maintain clean air for the Games and masks would just “add weight to visitors’ luggage”.

Under the vehicle restrictions, 300,000 high-emission cars were taken off the city’s roads in early July.

Since July 20, private cars and government cars have been banned on alternate days according to their odd or even number license plates.

Traffic on major roads in Beijing has dropped by 25%, and 22 of the first 25 days in July met the country’s “blue sky” standards.

“It’s just a beginning, but the improvement is fairly obvious,” Mr Shaozhong told the press conference.

“Even on days that failed to reach the ‘blue day’ standard, major air pollutants have shown significant decreases compared with the past.”

The state-owned Xinhua News Agency said he dismissed claims that the city’s air quality had worsened since controls were imposed.

He blamed the smog over the city on the recent hot and humid weather, rather than pollution.

“Beijing is usually very humid in summer and sees quite some misty days, which also causes low visibility,” he told journalists.

“We have spent great efforts cutting pollutants and seen obvious improvement of air quality. As for visibility, no matter in which country, visibility is low in misty days.”

He added: “August seventh is the day when autumn begins (according to the Chinese lunar calendar). The weather in autumn is fine and autumn is usually the best season for travelling and having meetings in Beijing. I believe air quality during the Olympics will be fine.”

Kate Martin

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