Olympics: Beijing Confident Of Clean Air For Games

BEIJING : Beijing’s environment bureau insisted on Tuesday that pollution would not be a problem for the Olympics despite heavy smog enveloping the city exactly one month before the Games start.

Visibility throughout the Chinese capital was down to a few hundred metres (yards) as pollution mixed in with misty weather, rendering the skyline a dull mix of grey and white.

But Beijing’s Environmental Protection Bureau on Tuesday said it was not worried about pollution during the Olympic Games.

“We have confidence that we will ensure air quality,” said Zhai Xiaohui, an official at the bureau, who refused to answer further questions over the phone.

Authorities in Beijing have already implemented some measures designed to improve air quality during the Games, with 300,000 highly polluting vehicles banned from the capital from July 1.

Some factories and enterprises were also temporarily closed down, with 145 cement mixing stations, 506 auto repair businesses and 357 dry-cleaning shops shut down, the Beijing News reported.

But a look out of the window in Beijing on Tuesday suggested that little had changed, with locals complaining they had only seen blue skies a handful of times over the past three weeks.

The bureau said it had received 12,015 complaints about the environment in the first half of the year, an 18 percent increase compared with the same time last year.

Beijing is one of the world’s most polluted cities and vehicle emissions from up to 3.3 million cars are largely to blame.

Pollution levels remain one of the biggest challenges for the Olympic Games — designed to showcase China’s rise as a modern power — and some athletes have spoken of withdrawing from events because of the health threat.

However authorities are counting on a measure due to be implemented on July 20 that will force cars with even and odd number plates to run on alternate days.

A test run last year saw around 1.3 million cars taken off the roads every day, and authorities hope the measure will reduce the number of vehicles by 45 percent this year, leading to a 63 percent drop in emissions.

– AFP /ls

Channel News Asia

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