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July 20th, 2008:

Heavy Rain Does Not Clear Away Pollutants

Updated on Jul 20, 2008 – SCMP

An official from the Observatory said that when it was raining, “particulates and other pollutants will normally be washed away” by the heavy rain (“Thought clean air was the silver lining in rainy June? Think again”, July 13).

The pollutants do not go away, they end up polluting the land, sea, lakes and rivers on which we rely for drinking water and food.

Humans are polluting our environment and by so doing endangering the well-being of our children and our children’s children, and other species of life.

Believe it or not, we’re doing the same thing in New Zealand but seemingly to a lesser extent.

Iain Seymour-Hart, Auckland, New Zealand

Pollution Is Getting Worse

Trend shows pollution is getting worse

Updated on Jul 20, 2008 – SCMP

The spokeswoman from the Environmental Protection Department quoted in the article (“Thought clean air was the silver lining in rainy June? Think again”, July 20) continues the department’s campaign of misinformation by claiming that air pollutant concentrations last year were similar to 2005 and 2006, and better than 2004.

In fact, pollutants were higher last year than in 2006.

Also, they were higher in 2006 than 2005.

While it is true that all these years had lower levels than 2004, this is only because 2004’s levels were an all-time record.

The trend in air pollution is clear and non-debatable.

Air pollution in Hong Kong is getting worse. The department should admit this basic fact, and use it as the central basis for a commitment to clean up the air.

William Hayward, Wan Chai

Beijing Clean Air Rules Take Effect – 20th July

Restrictions on driving have been introduced in the Chinese capital, Beijing, in an attempt to improve the city’s air quality in time for the Olympic Games.

The directive, which bans private vehicles with odd- and even-numbered licence plates from Beijing’s roads on alternate days, came into effect on Sunday, 19 days before the sporting event begins.

The rules to reduce Beijng’s notorious air pollution will remain in effect until September 20.

The latest measures come after Jacques Rogge, head of the International Committee (IOC), said last year that poor air quality during the August 8-24 games would threaten some events.

Pollution concerns

A fine of $14 – a significant amount in China where incomes are lower than those in more developed countries – will be levied on those who drive their vehicles on the wrong day.

Traffic on the streets of the Chinese capital was light as the restrictions came into force, but it will take some time for the haze to clear.

There are 3.3 million vehicles in Beijing. A package of similar restrictions to reduce their use was introduced for a trial period last August but the haze from pollution remained.

This time, the authorities have also ordered the shutting down of polluting industries in the region around Beijing, as well as the halting of construction in the city.

A day before the road traffic restrictions took effect, Beijing opened three underground railway lines to absorb the amount of extra passengers using the city’s rail network.

Farmers protest

The Chinese government is taking considerable steps to promote an image of harmony and unity in the run-up to the games.

But concerns remain about government attempts to quell any social unrest.

Two people were killed by police officers during a battle with villagers in southwestern China in the latest incident, an activist group said on Sunday.

About 1,000 rubber growers demonstrating over the price at which they have to sell their crops, clashed with police in Yunnan province’s Menglian county on Saturday, the Hong Kong Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said.

The farmers are angry at having to sell their entire crop to local government departments at prices 40 per cent lower than they could obtain on the open market.

Xinhua, China’s state news agency, said the local government had been instructed to put an end to the dispute.

It quoted Bai Enpei, a senior Communist party official, as saying that the provincial authorities should listen “attentively to the complaints and appeal of local residents, making great efforts to rescue the injured people, and consoling family members of the dead to prevent the matter from escalating”.

China recently ordered local governments to make every effort to resolve social disputes to prevent protests from spreading to the capital.

Beijing’s Fight To Clear The Air

0:52pm UK, Sunday July 20, 2008 – James Jordan, Sky News Online

Motorists in Beijing can only drive every other day as the city battles to clean up air quality for the Olympics.

The Chinese government is hoping to tackle Beijing’s smog for the Olympics

Cars with licence plates that end in an odd number are banned from the roads every second day, to alternate with cars sporting even-numbered plates.

There have been concerns about air quality in the Chinese capital ever since it was awarded the Games by the International Olympic Committee in 2001.

So far, more than £8.5bn has been spent by the city’s authorities to try to beat the smog.

The cash has been spent on shutting down factories, unleashing cloud seeders to encourage rain and now the car ban.

It is estimated that there are about 3.5 million vehicles on the roads in Beijing and the ban, first trialled in August 2007, will reduce road numbers by around one million a day.

Drivers will be compensated by not having to pay road and vehicle taxes for three months – at a cost of £93m to the government.

Also, 70% of all government cars and trucks owned by state-run enterprises will be banned from the roads for the two-month period.

At the British team’s final news conference in London before the Games, chef de mission Simon Clegg said: “With the smog, in the main, things are improving and there are still some substantial changes to be implemented – the reduction of cars on the road and implementation of Olympic lanes.

“I’m really confident the Chinese will be able to deliver a blue-skies games, which was their dream.”

It is feared that the pollution levels may trigger respiratory disorders like asthma and pose a health risk for the 10,000 athletes who participate in the Games from August 8-24.

The IOC has already indicated that certain events may be rescheduled if they deam the air quality is unsafe.

The British teams will wear specially designed masks, and Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrselassie has said he won’t run the marathon for health reasons.

Australia has recently said its athletes will remain in Hong Kong during the opening ceremony to limit their exposure to polluted air.