In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics Beijing’s environment has been under intense scrutiny.
Beijing’s Olympic countdown clock. Image by Steve Cadman
So it’s understandable that at least a few people were suspicious when, after the Wall Street Journal alleged the government was manipulating the results, January and February were announced to have the cleanest air recorded in the city for years.
The WSJ accused the government of shutting down pollution measurement stations in polluted parts of the city and reopening the monitoring stations in less polluted areas, thus bringing down the recorded pollution levels overall.
The Chinese government categorically denies all allegations of tampering with the results. Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau spokesman Du Shaozhong said: “This phenomenon does not exist. This is a misunderstanding. We have noticed these reports and we think they are unfair.” He alleged that the government was engaged in a constant battle against air pollution.
The government has invested almost 120 billion yuan ($16.8 billion) into cleaning the city’s air, although they haven’t completely won over Olympic officials. Last year the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge warned that several endurance events, such as the marathon, could be rescheduled if the IOC deemed the air quality was not good enough.
Du pointed to the last two months cleaner air as an example of the government plan’s effectiveness. He said: “I must tell you a very important fact that the air quality this January and February has shown further obvious improvements on previous years.”
The government is currently entering the 14th phase of its air pollution reduction plan. This phase aims to reduce pollution emissions by a further 50,000 tons. There are also plans to have several industry sectors run at reduced capacity in the months leading up to and during the games.
Info from Telegraph