Beijing Car Ban Improves Air Quality

A test run of traffic controls to clear Beijing's smoggy skies for next year's Olympic Games successfully improved air quality, state media reported Tuesday, saying conditions were "fairly good" despite a constant gray haze.

Beijing Car Ban Improves Air Quality
Air pollution has emerged as a key problem for Beijing as it gears up for the Olympics. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge warned during a visit earlier this month that some Olympic competitions might be postponed if the city did not clean up the pollution.

Air quality was "fairly good" during the four-day trial that ended Monday, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The traffic ban removed 1.3 million private vehicles from Beijing's perpetually gridlocked streets each day. Additional buses and subways were added as residents turned to public transportation, car pools and taxis for their commutes.

Cars with even-numbered license plates were ordered off roads on Friday and Sunday, and vehicles with odd-numbered plates were banned Saturday and Monday. Emergency vehicles, taxis, buses and other public-service vehicles were exempt.

Environmental officials said air quality improved even though Beijing seemed to be polluted as normal, with an unmoving gray haze shrouding the Chinese capital. The pollution rose thousands of feet above the city Sunday, the third day of the test -- a distinct gray layer could be seen from flights descending in Beijing, hovering over fluffy white clouds.

Beijing had an air pollution index of between 93 and 95 during the test days, the city's environmental protection bureau said on its Web site. By Tuesday morning, the index had climbed to between 90 and 120. Any reading over 100 is considered polluted.

The air quality did not seem to be visibly better because high humidity trapped the pollution and there were no strong winds to blow it away, the environmental bureau said.

However, "It should be affirmed that the ban of vehicles has improved the city's air quality," Zhao Yue, a senior engineer with the Beijing Environment Protection Monitoring Center, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau referred questions to its Web site and did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment. Telephones at the Beijing Olympics organizing committee rang unanswered.

Traffic controls are just one way Beijing Olympic organizers have tried to clear the skies. Officials have spent billions of dollars closing factories and moving others out of town. Frenzied, around-the-clock construction to modernize the capital will be curtailed ahead of the games next summer.

Beijing is particularly focused on combatting particle pollution, which can cause breathing problems and reduced visibility. That pollution is caused by emissions from power plants, diesel engines and wind-blown dust. High ozone levels, which occur on sunny days when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons emitted by car tailpipes, power plants and factories react in the air, are also a problem.

AP
Last Mod: 21 Ağustos 2007, 12:04
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