Beijing hires foreign experts for pollution watch
BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing has hired a panel of foreign environmental experts to lend credibility to its pollution monitoring and forecasts during the August 8-24 Olympics, state media reported on Thursday.
Fifty days before the opening ceremony, Beijing was again shrouded in smog on Thursday in a graphic reminder of how much remains to be done to clear the city's skies for the Olympics and September's Paralympics.
This is the first time foreigners have joined the Chinese capital's fight to improve air quality, the poor state of which was in part behind Australia's decision earlier this week to tell its track and field athletes to skip the opening ceremony.
"This panel will ensure the air quality monitoring and forecasts are publicised and authoritative because we have both domestic and foreign experts," Du Shaozhong, vice director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, told Xinhua news agency.
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 by which the authorities measure the improvement.
The 12-person panel, including scientists from Hong Kong, the United States and Italy, will monitor and forecast air quality in Beijing during the Olympics and will also evaluate actions already taken to improve air quality, Xinhua reported.
The panel will be headed by Tang Xiaoyan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and he promised they would be producing forecasts up to a week ahead.
"If the forecast show a bad situation, we will take strict actions to control pollution like limiting vehicles on the road and limiting vehicles from outside coming into Beijing," he said.
Beijing has spent 140 billion yuan (10.4 billion pounds) on environmental improvements over the last decade, shutting down heavy polluting factories, switching tens of thousands of homes from oil to gas heating and imposing higher emission standards on vehicles.
The problem persists, however, particularly when there is no wind as was the case on Thursday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it might reschedule endurance events such as the marathon to prevent health risks to athletes competing for more than an hour.
Beijing will also close more factories and force 19 heavy polluters to reduce emissions by 30 percent for two months from July 20. Six surrounding provinces also have contingency plans.
Other Games-time measures in Beijing include a ban on construction and cars being barred from the roads on alternate days according to whether their licence plates end in odd or even numbers.
"I will stay in Beijing for the whole of August to monitor the air quality," Ivo Allegrini, research director at Italy's Institute for Atmospheric Pollution, told Xinhua.
"My work group from Italy will help them to use our equipment to survey the air quality and report to environmental department of Beijing."
(Editing by Alex Richardson)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this