An environment official on Saturday pledged to maintain Beijing's air quality "on good or moderate levels" during the Olympic Games, denying a recent haze over the city was caused by pollution.
"Keeping an eligible air condition for the Olympic Games is a promise made by the Chinese government and we would honor our commitment," Du Shaozhong, deputy director of Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, told a press conference at the Main Press Center (MPC) of the Beijing Olympic Games.
The Chinese capital has been fighting air pollution since 1998, hoping to reduce particular matters mainly created by emissions and construction sites.
"Beijing has made three major leaps in improving the air quality," said Du, citing that, from 1998 to 2007, the number of days which averaged Air Pollution Index (API) under 100 (Chinese standard for air pollution) had been increased from 100 to 246.
Major pollutants sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide in the city had been controlled within national standards in that nine years, he added.
The city has taken a series of measures since last year to clean the air. Hundreds of factories around or on the outskirts of Beijing which produced heavy emissions had been temporarily or permanently shut down.
Shougang Group, one of the country's biggest steel makers, and several coking plants have been moved from the Olympic host city, where construction sites have been also ordered to suspend working before the August 8-24 Games.
More than three million automobiles have been forced from July 20 to run on alternating days based on even or odd numbers on their license plates, a move expected to reduce about 60 percent of car emissions.
"Monitoring analysis shows the emergency measures adopted since July have helped improve the air quality," the deputy director said, adding that there has been 22 days with API under 100 from July 1 to 25.
Meanwhile, Beijing has been covered by haze since July 25, to some extent discrediting the official's figures.
"Good air quality does not necessarily mean blue sky, we should judge whether there is pollution by scientific statistics, not by what eyes could see," Du explained, "lt's just like you can't see things in a balneary, but you would not believe there is pollution."
"Technically, the haze was partly caused by rainy weather," Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Municipal Observatory, said at the conference.
Du Shaozhong discourages people from wearing face masks during the Games, saying it is "totally unnecessary".
(Xinhua News Agency July 26, 2008)