Air pollution remains a significant challenge for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, according to a United
Nations environmental report released Thursday, but Beijing
officials expressed confidence in handling the problem.
The independent appraisal follows a report this month by the
Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad
(BOCOG) that about 120 billion yuan (US$16 billion) had been spent
on environment-related projects from 1998 to 2006.
Workers stand near the
Olympic Stadium, also known as "The Bird's Nest", amidst hazy
conditions in Beijing October 25. Beijing's air pollution remains a
concern for the 2008 Olympics, even though the city is well on its
way to fulfilling the environmental pledges made when it bid to
host the Games, a United Nations report said on
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), said that funds for improving the
environment "appear to have been well spent".
The money will be even more well spent if the measures
undertaken were adopted across the country as a "real and lasting
nationwide legacy", he said.
The UNEP's report praised the city for waste management, cleaner
transport systems, water treatment capabilities and creating urban
green belts including the 580-hectare Olympic Forest Park.
However, concerns remain over air pollution, most of which is
"exacerbated" by the city's geographical location. The report said
that surrounding mountain ranges block air circulation and prevent
the dispersion of pollutants.
The levels of small particles in the atmosphere, which are
hazardous to health, have at times exceeded World Health
Organization air quality guidelines.
The excessive use of coal and a rising number of new vehicles
have slowed the pace of air quality improvement, and the goal
cannot be achieved over a short period, the UNEP said.
But Khalid Malik, the UN representative in Beijing, said: "You
have to bear in mind this is the first time the Olympics is being
held in a developing country".
Beijing has committed to a cleaner Games and long-term
environmental quality with major polluting factories in the capital
relocated or refitted, among other measures.
"Beijing has accelerated building of urban infrastructure
suitable for sustainable development," Yu Xiaoxuan, deputy director
of BOCOG's construction and environment department, said.
Yu said air quality will meet Games standards.
The report Thursday praised BOCOG for accelerating the phasing
out of ozone-depleting chemicals and promoting energy efficiency
and green energy appliances in buildings and sports venues.
Officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are
also confident that air pollution can be adequately addressed.
"The IOC was well aware of the air pollution issue as early as
seven years ago when Beijing was bidding for the Games. We can only
say that six years later, they (BOCOG) lived up to their
commitments," said Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the IOC
Coordination Commission for the 2008 Games, which concluded a
three-day inspection of Beijing's preparations Thursday.
(China Daily October 26, 2007)