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Air pollution denies Beijingers blue sky
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-07 23:01

The week-long National Day holiday wrapped up in a smoky haze in Beijing.

A French aerobatics performance had to be cancelled Thursday as a result of air pollution.

Visibility at the Nanyuan Airport, where the flights were to be staged, was only 1.5 kilometres.

According to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, the city's air was slightly polluted Thursday with suspended particles as the major pollutants.

Almost all construction sites in the city -- one of the major sources of pollution -- suspended work during the holiday. Still, the city's air quality remained consistently bad since October 4, shattering hopes of blue skies through the holiday.

Meteorologists said there was no cold air or strong wind and atmospheric pollutants -- such as sulphur dioxide and suspended particles -- did not diffuse, leaving a dirty sky.

The air pollution in the last days of the holiday was a wake up call for the city's environmental protection workers to strengthen the supervision on industrial emissions, smoke from burning coal and vehicle emission, said experts.

Air quality is a hot topic among Beijing residents as the municipal government promised early this year that the city's air quality should be at good level at least 62 per cent of days.

The city published a revised standard on coal use last month, aiming to uproot the burning of high-sulphur coal, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau.

According to the new standard, any work unit which still uses or sells high-sulphur coal will face a fine as high as 30,000 yuan (US$3,600).

There are more than 3,000 boilers burning coal in the city, and the control of smoke pollution is a pressing one for the coming winter, said the bureau.

If any boiler's emission of sulphur dioxide exceeds the amount permitted, the plant will be fined as much as 100,000 yuan (US$12,000), said the bureau.

In fact, the air quality of Beijing has improved gradually since 1998 when the city began to address its worsening air pollution.

The days with heavily polluted air in Beijing were reduced to five in 2003 from 141 days in 1998. The number of days with good air quality climbed to 224 last year from only 100 days in 1998.

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