After having made remarkable headway in improving its air
quality on a year-on-year basis, Beijing is now at the point where
further progress will be difficult, said.
"It has become very difficult for Beijing to add more blue-sky
days. Nevertheless, emissions must be within the national standard
during the 2008 Beijing Olympics," Shi Hanmin, director of the
Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, told Beijing Public
Service Media on Sunday.
Last year, the city recorded 241 blue-sky days, seven more than
in 2005 and 141 more than in 1998.
"Around 2000, the number of blue-sky days increased by about 5
percentage points per year. However, the rate has slowed to just 1
or 2 percent in recent years," Shi said.
"The decline of the growth rate suggests that we have finished
doing all the easy tasks, leaving just the deeper, more fundamental
The official also warned that Beijing would probably suffer
severe sandstorms this spring.
"The warm weather and decreased rainfall since last winter have
further loosened up the sand and earth, which will easily lead to
sandy weather once the wind kicks up," said Shi.
He said Beijing had developed a contingency plan for dealing
with serious windy and sandy weather, including increased street
sweeping and the cancellation of projects requiring digging.
Beijing was hit by 17 sandstorms last year, representing a low
point for air quality.
Though Shi conceded that the city had few proposed solutions to
its fundamental air-quality problems and insufficient power to
enforce measures, he said his bureau would still push for 245
blue-sky days this year.
This year Beijing will focus on reducing low-altitude pollution
by using clean energy to replace 1,100 coal-fired boilers with
capacities of 20 tons each and preparatory work to implement the
Euro-IV emissions standards for new vehicles by next year.
The Euro-IV standards are guidelines set by the European Union
for reducing roadside emissions like nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons
and carbon monoxide.
"Coal-burning boilers and stoves are still the No 1 killer of
air quality, producing one fifth of all the pollutants we inhale
and a half of the overall sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide
emissions," Shi said.
The widespread use of small coal-burning stoves during the
winter contributes to the capital's poor air quality. Officials
estimate that there are 700,000 such stoves in the city.
To reverse the damage caused by small coal-burning stoves, the
city has operated a coal-to-electricity pilot program over the past
two years involving 10,000 homes in central Beijing.
"Air-monitoring stations have reported encouraging results. This
year we will extend the program to more than 110,000 homes," said
The city will also decommission 2,580 heavily polluting buses
and look into open-air barbecues and smoke discharge from
(China Daily January 23, 2007)