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Pollution dampens Beijing's hope for "blue sky"
Updated: 2004-11-21 15:47

Though Beijingers glimpsed clear, blue sky over the past several days, it is unlikely that the city will meet its 2004 goal of 227 pollution-free days, or blue-sky days.

The hope of achieving the number of clear days set in the annual air pollution control plan is being dampened by winter foul weather and heavier pollution.

According to the municipal environmental protection administration, by Nov. 16, Beijing had seen 198 days with clear sky, 29 days short of the annul projection. To hit the target for the entire year, the days with blue sky must account for 65 percent of the remaining days of this year.

As winter falls, turning on the heat means turning up pollution levels + particularly sulfur dioxide and dust, said experts with the environmental protection administration.

In the heating season, increased coal consumption produces@sulfur dioxide. The latest survey found only 74.8 percent of coal used in Beijing is quality coal with low sulfur content, according to Du Shaozhong, deputy head of the administration.

Local meteorologists forecast that Beijing will have a warm winter this year as the tropical atmosphere and water body in the Pacific have El Nino conditions.

A warm winter would have less cold air, fewer windy days and more foggy weather. These will make it more difficult for pollutants to dispel, said Shi Hanmin, head of the administration.

Shi said that particulate matter makes up most of the air pollutants in Beijing. Of the particulate matter, dust from construction sites account for 33 percent; industrial production, 29 percent; and motor vehicles, 23 percent.

Official statistics show that Beijing has more than 8,000 ongoing construction projects. Of the total, at least 30 percent fail to meet pollutant control requirements.

Measures are being taken to put pollutant discharge by heating systems under rigid control, including the use of cleaner fuel. Efforts are also being made to eliminate motor vehicles with heavy exhaust and to reduce dust pollution from construction sites.

Despite falling short of this year's goal, the overall ecological environment has improved since the beginning of the 1990s, thanks to the city's pollution control efforts.

According to Feng Yuqiao, who was in charge of an atmosphere department of the administration, Beijing injected a total of 67 billion yuan (8.1 billion US dollars) in various environmental protection projects between 1998 and 2003, or four percent of the city's gross domestic product for the six-year period.

Compared with 1998, sulfur dioxide level in Beijing's air has reduced 49 percent, nitrogen dioxide down 3 percent and particulate matter down 20 percent. As a result, the days with blue sky accounted for 61.4 percent of the 2003 total, up 34 percent from the 1998 level. And the proportion was up to 63.9 percent for the first nine months of this year, said Feng.

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