Beijing has finally reached the year's clean-air target.
Wednesday's crisp and clean weather was a blessing for the city's air guardians. It marked the 227th day of good air quality, Beijing's goal for 2004, according to Zhao Chengyi of the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection.
Two months ago, the target seemed unattainable because winter had started and coal-fired boilers were belching smoke to keep homes warm.
Zhao said the hard-earned reward results from intensive inspections of various pollution sources, as well as cooperative weather that blew pollutants out of the city.
That air pollution that frequently envelopes Beijing in dingy smog is a key concern for the city's decision makers and a hot topic for local residents.
Some people are questioning whether a realistic measuring stick was used to determine good air quality days.
They argued that some atmospheric monitoring stations are located in places where the air quality is constantly good, such as the remote outskirts and gardens with many trees. Since air quality is measured as an average of the indices collected from various stations, counting good air quality days is not truly representative of actual conditions across the city.
But others said that Beijing's air quality has indeed improved since it set annual targets for the number of clean days.
"The most impressive point to me is that when I took photos in the late 1990s, the pictures looked like they were covered by a thick layer of dust. But now, the trees are greener and the sky is bluer," said Lu Peihong, a Beijing resident living in Haidian District.
(China Daily December 31, 2004)