Beijing is going all out in its bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games under the campaign slogan "Green Olympics."
The campaign is unprecedented in many ways - the huge capital inputs, the involvement of volunteers in tens of thousands and the enthusiasm shown by the press in promoting it.
"We definitely want to host the 2008 Olympic Games to enhance the international image of our country and our city," said Vice-Mayor Liu Jingmin, who doubles up as chairman of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee. "But it has to be remembered that the 'Green Olympics' campaign is not purely for the bid. Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life in Beijing."
The campaign was officially launched on August 28 this year, when the committee and 24 non-government organizations concerned with environmental protection signed a Green Olympics Action Plan. Immediately afterwards, the committee set up an Environment and Ecology Department. The department is busy planning action to be taken in various fields with relevant government departments and non-government bodies.
The campaign has been well received. On October 21, bird lovers released scores of birds at a publicity gathering at the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Two days later, the White Doves Society, a group of volunteers from the Beijing Normal University, pledged support in helping Xicheng District promote the "Green Olympics" campaign.
Tens of thousands of school children are taking part in the "Green Angels Campaign" to help make the city cleaner. Wang Liping and fellow members of the Green Angels Group at her school in Shijingshan District spend two hours every Sunday collecting litters on lawns in a park.
"Our parents and grandparents often join us," said the 11-year-old girl. "That is really nice."
The committee has received delegations from scores of research institutes and companies who come to offer technical proposals or donations.
One company has pledged to donate toilets fitted with equipment to discreetly treat human waste. A professor at the Beijing Polytechnic University has recommended the use of photo-catalysis paint, a "green" product he has just developed.
Experts at the Beijing Geological Prospecting Institute have supplied the committee with a complete set of technical literature on using geothermal heat in the Olympic Park.
"Popular activities for environmental protection have never been so great in scale," Vice-Mayor Liu Jingmin said.
"The Green Olympics Action Plan conforms to the principle of the modern Olympics, which is that the sustainable development of cities should be promoted through hosting the Olympic Games," Liu said. "This action plan is in line with the Outline Program for the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution in Beijing (1998-2002) we are implementing."
The municipal government is investing 44.6 billion yuan (US$ 5.6 billion) in the 1998-2002 program, which has won approval from the State Council.
To improve the city's air quality, the municipal government has banned cars that fail exhaust emission tests, while spending billions of yuan on a project transmitting natural gas from north Shaanxi to the homes of Beijing residents.
Liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas are replacing oil as the fuel of more than 60,000 buses in the city, and factories polluting the city air are being closed down or relocated. The city's Fourth Ring Road is nearly finished, and is designed to reduce the air pollution in the city center by diverting traffic from it.
"It is not difficult to envisage the magnitude of environmental protection work that is needed in a city as large as Beijing," Liu Jingmin said. "But we can safely say that by 2002, the last year of the current program, Beijing will have met the state-imposed environmental standards."
Departments of the municipal government and governments of the districts and counties under Beijing's jurisdiction are formulating their own plans for environmental protection.
On the basis of those "sub-plans," the municipal government will work out an environmental protection program for the 2003-2008 period. Officials say that the authorities are considering spending 120 billion yuan (US$ 14.5 billion) on the new program.
Although specific targets are yet to be set, the overall target is that by 2008, Beijing will, by and large, be at the same environmental standards as Paris, London or Washington. On 75 percent of the days in a year, the city's air quality should be rated as "fair" or "good."
By 2008, 90 percent of the city's sewage will be treated, as against 40 percent now.
Water recycled in this way is good enough for industrial use, toilets and watering plants.
An Old Dream Coming True
To date, Beijing has spent up to 2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on environmental protection, which is considered to be as good as that of a capital city of a developing nation. Over the next 10 years or so the figure will go up to about 5 percent, which conforms to the best international standard.
"Beijing is striving to become an international metropolis and the 'Green Olympics' campaign has come just in time to boost our development effort," Liu Jingmin said.
For Jiang Xiaoke, 71, the campaign makes her hope that an old dream of hers is coming true. She used to be director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau and, at 71, chairs the non-government Beijing Environmental Protection Foundation. "Our foundation aims mainly at educating women and children about waste disposal and directing them to play a role in the battle against pollution," she said.
Before she retired 10 years ago, Jiang proposed a program to the municipal government that suggested 51 steps to clean up the city.
"I am so happy to see so many of my ideas have been or are being put into practice," she said.
Jiang still remembers how she fought for the building of a few more sewage treatment plants, but was frustrated when told the government had no money. "When I retired, Beijing had three sewage treatment plants, and it now has five," she said.
In 1998, the city could treat 580,000 cubic metres of sewage a day, a figure that rose to 1.08 million cubic metres a day in 1999 following the completion of a sewage treatment plant at Gaobeidian, in the city's eastern suburbs.
Now that the Jiuxianqiao sewage treatment plant is in operation, the city's sewage treatment capacity is expected to increase to 1.28 million cubic metres a day by the end of 2000.
"Green Angel" Wang Liping also has a dream. "I will be 19 in 2008," she said. "If Beijing won the bid, I would try to work for the Games as a volunteer. I would be able to tell athletes from all over the world that I helped make the city cleaner and the games a success."
(China Daily 11/23/2000)