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Building Sites Ordered To Stop Work In Bid To Improve Games Air Quality

Martin Zhou in Beijing – Updated on Mar 13, 2008 – SCMP

First it was steel mill managers, petrol station operators and motorists. Now it’s the turn of construction project chiefs to feel the impact of Beijing’s massive campaign to clean up the city’s air before the Olympic Games.

Authorities yesterday ordered the capital’s thousands of construction sites, which together cover 100 sq km, to scale down their operations from next Thursday before coming to a complete standstill for two months from July 21, two weeks before the Games open on August 8.

“From March 20 through to July 20, construction sites should cease to carry out any operations which could generate excessive dust, including earthworks, under gusty or sandstorm conditions,” a circular issued by the municipal government said.

The complete ban would be in place for the Olympics and the following Paralympics, which end on September 17.

Aside from exhaust emissions, dust pollution from construction sites is believed to be a major source of particulate matter – solid airborne pollutants.

In Beijing, the concentration of such tiny hazardous particles, which can go deep into the respiratory system and damage lungs, often hovers at levels around three to four times above World Health Organisation safety standards. It remains a sore point in Beijing’s multibillion-yuan cleanup campaign.

Officials argue they have kept the growth of most other major airborne pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, under control by imposing a mixed bag of measures, including cutting back on the output of energy-intensive factories in the suburbs, limiting vehicle use and revamping petrol stations.

Beijing Vice-Mayor Liu Jingmin confirmed that millions of cars would be banned from the roads but did not say how long the ban would last.

“With all such measures in place, I’m fully confident that air quality in Beijing will meet the health standard during the Olympics,” Wu Xiaoqing, a deputy head of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress meeting.

The Ethiopian runner Haile Gebrselassie, a world record holder, announced this week he would not run in the Olympic marathon in Beijing because of concerns over air pollution.

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