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Official Claims Beijing Is Not An 'Acid Rain Zone'
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A local environmental protection official has contradicted official reports that Beijing is having problems with acid rain.


Du Shaozhong, deputy head of the Beijing's environmental protection bureau, cited figures that purport to show that the ratio of acid rain in Beijing during the July-August period this year was only 5.9 percent. This is much lower than the 28.6 percent for the corresponding period of 2004 and the 21.4 percent recorded last year.


Du's claims directly contradict a September report from the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), which said 80 percent of wet days in Beijing were acid rain days.


The CMA had pointed out that China is now the world's biggest sulfur dioxide polluter with 25.49 million tons discharged in 2005. The amount is up an alarming 27 percent on the 2000 figure.


Other recent reports from the State Environmental Protection Administration and from the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) have warned about the grave dangers posed by acid rain.


However, according to Du, this year's ratio of 5.9 percent proves that "Beijing is not an acid rain zone."


The conflicting reports reflect the debate over China's development and its environmental consequences.


Chen Tian, chief engineer with the municipal environmental protection bureau, said although Beijing's auto numbers were expanding rapidly and coal consumption increasing, monitoring results show that the content of sulfur dioxide in the air had dropped significantly and there was no change in the amount of nitrogen oxide in the air.


Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are the major causes of acid rain, Chen said, claiming that a drop in sulfur dioxide in the air and a stable amount of nitrogen oxide show that there is no increase in acid substances in the air over Beijing.


Acid rain refers to all types of precipitation -- rain, snow, sleet, hail, and fog that is acidic in nature. "Acidic" means that these substances have a pH lower than the 5.6 average of rainwater.


Acid rain kills aquatic life, trees, crops and other vegetation, damages buildings, monuments and automobiles, corrodes copper and lead piping, reduces soil fertility and can cause toxic metals to leach into underground drinking water sources.


Beijing has been monitoring the occurrence of acid rain for almost 20 years, Chen said.


Currently the city has three monitoring stations established at Chegongzhuang in the downtown area and near Miyun Reservoir and Huangcun in suburban areas.


Samples are taken once every 24 hours at times when the city encounters any forms of precipitation, Chen said, explaining that the monitoring results were scientific and reliable.


Beijing intends to announce acid rain monitoring results regularly in the future to complete information about local weather conditions.


(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2006)

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