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Beijing Applauded For Clean-Up Effort To Soon

Beijing applauded for clean-up effort, then the haze floats back

Al Guo – Updated on Jul 24, 2008 – SCMP

Beijing’s air quality fell yesterday as environmental experts, Olympics officials and the mainland media applauded the city for its efforts to clean it up.

Beijing’s composite Air Pollution Index reached 89, following readings of between 50 and 60 on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the first three days of traffic restrictions.

According to the index, compiled by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, all but five remote suburbs in the city had air pollution levels higher than 80 yesterday, with a couple of districts registering up to 99. Any figure recorded above 100 is considered harmful to health.

Gilbert Felli, the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Games executive director, was quoted by Xinhua yesterday as saying he had been pleasantly surprised to see the improvement of air quality in the past few days.

“I’m very surprised because I thought it would be different but it’s much better, much better. You don’t feel bad when you breathe, so it looks good,” Mr Felli said before the release of yesterday’s readings.

State media also praised the city’s efforts to curb air pollution in the past few days, saying Beijing could keep its promise to offer Olympic athletes clear air during the Games.

Xinhua published a chart that showed the capital was expected to have 256 clear days this year, compared with 246 last year, 241 in 2006 and just 100 in 1988.

But the official praise was not enough to eradicate doubts that even taking half of the city’s vehicles off the roads may not be enough to guarantee better air quality.

“Situations like this could happen even during the Olympic Games, but hopefully we will see air quality continue to improve as we probably need at least a week to 10 days to see the effects from this traffic restriction,” environment expert Zhu Tong said.

Mr Zhu said the rise in the index yesterday may have been caused by unfavourable weather conditions in Beijing.

IOC chief Jacques Rogge has warned that some endurance events at the Games may have to be rescheduled if air quality threatens the health of athletes.

For long-time residents of the city, yesterday’s air quality was still more or less acceptable, with some even feeling the air improved in the morning.

Mr Zhu said people could sense differences in air quality, which changed throughout the day.

But the final index was determined by calculating the average level of pollutants in the air during a 24-hour cycle, he said.

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