Beijing enjoys clear blue skies

2008-09-01 12:15

Beijing - Beijing is enjoying its best air quality in a decade thanks to steps taken for the Olympics, authorities said on Monday, amid a push by some locals for the anti-pollution measures to be made permanent.

As Beijingers started their work week on another day of clear blue skies, the city's environmental protection bureau reported that Beijing experienced 14 days of "level one" air quality - the highest possible reading - in August.

Main pollutants were down 50% from normal during the August 8-24 Beijing Olympics, and 45% for the whole month, the bureau said on its website.

"This was the best level in 10 years," the bureau said.

Beijing's air quality is routinely rated among the worst in the world by international agencies such as the United Nations and the World Bank, with the rising number of cars, industrial pollution and dust storms among the culprits.

Among drastic measures to ensure clean air for the Beijing Olympics, private cars were only allowed on the roads on every second day using an odds and even number plate system.

Construction work

This took about one million of the car's 3.3 million cars off the roads.

More than 100 heavily polluting factories were also temporarily shut down, 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 keep the measures going, particularly the restrictions on car use.

More than 400 000 people have joined an online discussion on www.ynet.com, the website of the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper, on whether to keep anti-pollution measures going, with about half supporting the motion.

"In the past few years, many of the people I know have had cancer, and this is definitely linked to air pollution," one 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 as saying it would take measures to continue to improve the air quality after the Games, including a possible charge on vehicle emissions.

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