Changing China

Giant on the move

Smogwatch 23rd July

July 23, 2008

Despite last-ditch attempts to turn the smokey and dusty Chinese capital into the promised pollution-free Olympic venue, smog still shrouded the iconic national stadium, the Bird’s Nest on Wednesday (July 23). The temperature on Wednesday was forecast to be around 30 degrees Celsius with 66 percent humidity.    The Beijing Ministry for Environmental Protection was still showing data from Tuesday (July 22) when the Chinese Air Pollution Index (API) showed a reading of API 66. This figure is valid up until 1200 local (0300 GMT) the present day, but the air quality on Wednesday was visibly worse than the day before.

    API 66 is grade two in the Chinese system, meaning “comparatively good”, and counts as a “blue sky day” in Beijing.

    Environmental experts have in the past cast doubts on the Beijing’s claims of improvement in air quality, particularly the much-vaunted “blue sky days” tally that the authorities use to measure the improvement. Beijing says the blue sky index is aimed at helping Beijing residents understand the differences in air quality.

    The city’s chronic pollution has been one of the biggest headaches for Games organisers. In addition to traffic restrictions the city has called a halt to all building work, giving the construction dust a few weeks to settle before the Opening Ceremony.

    On Sunday (July 20),  the city imposed restrictions designed to almost halve the traffic on roads and stop construction work. With 3.3 million cars and more than 1,000 new cars hitting the street every day, Beijing is fast becoming one of the world’s most congested cities. Cars will be banned on alternate days according to whether their license plate ends in an odd or even number. Officials estimate traffic emissions will decrease by 63 percent.

    Construction sites in rapidly developing Beijing are also blamed for the poor air quality, which has led some to dub the city “Grayjing”.

See the latest smogwatch video from around the Olymoic Green here

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