Nearly half the vehicles in Beijing will be ordered off the
roads during the "Good Luck Beijing" sports events to test the
city's air quality. Test results will be used to revise the
Olympic Air Quality Guarantee Scheme.
In an interview with the Beijing News on August 9, Ms. Tang
Xiaoyan, an expert invited for the drafting of this scheme, member
of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, professor at Peking
University, and scientific advisor for the Beijing municipal
government, talked about this air quality test and traffic
restrictions during the Olympic test events.
The Beijing News (BN): Beijing has ordered some
vehicles off the roads to test the air quality. How important is
air quality to the Olympics?
Tang Xiaoyan (Tang): Since 1998, Beijing has
taken measures to control air pollution, and air quality has
consequently improved. For next year's Olympics, air quality is of
the utmost importance to the athletes. The key issue is to prevent
high concentrations of air pollutants.
BN: In which aspects will air pollutants be
Tang: Take inhalable particles for example.
This kind of pollutant contains many small particles which cause
atmospheric visibility to decline. The particles consist of even
smaller particulates, their size ranging from nano to micrometer.
They can enter into the human body very easily, and if they get
into the respiratory tract, or even the lungs, respiration might be
affected. So air quality must be guaranteed for the sake of the
BN: Has air quality been taken into
consideration in Beijing's bid for the Olympics?
Tang: In its bid for the Olympics, Beijing promised to keep air
quality in line with national standards and try to meet WHO
Last year, the Beijing municipal government invited a group of
experts to carry out research on air quality during the Olympics.
They have studied the desirable standards, goals, as well as
measures to be taken. An Olympic Air Quality Guarantee Scheme has
been submitted to the municipal government, covering the city
itself as well as its surrounding areas.
BN: What pollution controls are covered in the
Tang: It includes controls on coal burning,
industrial emissions, vehicle emissions, and raised dust.
BN: What can we expect from this Scheme?
Tang: This Scheme was made based on our past
practices. Predictions have been made about what will happen next
year, but it's still not clear what the level of success will be.
We hope to have an opportunity to test it, even just for a small
part. We want to see if it can really meet the requirement of air
quality standards during the Olympics next year.
We suggested that the municipal government should test a certain
part or parts of the Scheme during the Olympic test events. As a
result, the government decided to conduct a test from August 17 to
20, 2007. It can be considered as an exercise for this Scheme.
BN: Do you think 4 days' time is enough?
Tang: We were expecting a longer time for a
better effect. But we were afraid that it might affect other work
in the city. The municipal government has given us 4 days: a
Friday, a weekend and a Monday. Friday and Monday are the busiest
weekdays. We hope to see this Scheme's practical effect.
BN: As you have mentioned, the Scheme includes
various pollution controls, so why does this test only focus on
Tang: It's because vehicles are the biggest
inhalable particulate emitters, and the leading cause of particle
pollution. It impacts significantly the visibility in the air and
people's health. Moreover, the primary pollutants emitted by the
vehicles will be converted to cause secondary pollution in the air.
So, the whole Scheme's success depends largely on the vehicles
emissions control. Other pollutants will be attended to later
BN: What air quality test will be conducted at
Tang: We've set up some monitoring stations,
and our work will be divided into three phases: first, from August
1 to 17; second, from August 17 to 20, when the drill is being
applied; third, from the August 20 to the end of August. We'll
collect the data of these phases respectively, do the comparison
and see how the Program works.
BN: If the traffic restrictions are imposed,
what do you expect for air quality?
Tang: This is not the first time Beijing has
imposed traffic restrictions. During the Sino-African Cooperation
Forum, we did well in improving the air quality because we forbade
more than 400,000 cars belonging to companies or the government
driven on the road.
A survey by Harvard University shows from satellite pictures
that the nitrogen oxides were reduced significantly during those
This time, we have done a lot of arrangements and preparations,
including researching the conditions of meteorology and
BN: What difficulties will be encountered?
Tang: Rainy days. For example, we had no way to
get valid data during the thunderstorms a few days ago.
(China.org.cn by Zheng Na, Lu Lu and Fan Cong, August 13,