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Beijing Saw 14 ‘Top Grade’ Days In August

Agence France-Presse in Beijing – Updated on Sep 02, 2008

As Beijingers started their working week on another day of clear skies, the capital’s environmental protection bureau reported that the city experienced 14 days of “level one” air quality, the highest possible reading, last month.

Main pollutants were down 50 per cent from normal during the Olympics, and 45 per cent for the whole month, the bureau said on its website.

“This was the best level in 10 years,” it said.

Among drastic measures to ensure clean air for the Olympics, private cars were allowed on the roads only on every second day using an odd and even number plate system. This took about 1 million of the city’s 3.3 million cars off the roads.

More than 100 heavily polluting factories were also temporarily closed, while some construction work was suspended.

These measures started on July 20 and are due to remain in place until September 20 following the end of the Paralympics, which begin on Saturday.

The improvement in air quality has sparked online debates on whether to continue the measures, particularly the restrictions on car use. More than 400,000 people have joined a discussion on www.ynet. com, the website of the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper, on whether to keep anti-pollution measures going, with about half in support.

“In the past few years, many of the people I know have had cancer, and this is definitely linked to air pollution,” one posting said. “Where health is concerned, it’s worth making some sacrifices, like leaving the house earlier, being squeezed in the bus sometimes.”

The Beijing Times quoted the city environmental protection bureau saying it would take measures to continue to improve the air quality after the Games, including a possible charge on vehicle emissions. But it made no mention of the alternate driving days. The city’s air quality is routinely rated among the worst in the world by global agencies.

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