From: Reuters
Published November 5, 2004 12:00 AM

Beijing Is Facing "State of Emergency" from Filthy Air

BEIJING — China's capital is in "a state of emergency" because of air pollution, and one of the biggest polluters in the city, host of the 2008 Olympics, will slash production till the end of the year, state media said on Thursday.


Improving air quality is key to the city's drive to be ready to host the 2008 summer Games, and visiting International Olympic Committee officials have seen the air quality at its worst over recent days.


The capital has set a clean air target for 2004 of 227 days but has fallen well short of this.


"With 40 more days of clean air still needed, we are in a state of emergency," the Beijing Morning Post quoted a notice issued by the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau as saying.


The notice urged companies and factories to "strive hard to grab blue skies," the newspaper said.


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By the end of October, Beijing had registered only 187 blue-sky days, meaning it needed clear air in 40 of the last 61 days of 2004 to meet the mark, the newspaper said.


Steel maker Shougang Group said it will cut production to curb pollution.


"Some factories will examine and repair equipment in November and December, which will cut production to 40,000 tons so as to reduce pollution," Shougang's vice general manager, Liu Shuiyang, was quoted as saying, without explaining how much the factories would normally produce in two months.


Shougang would also cut steel production in Beijing to 4 million tons a year by 2007, state media said last October.


Beijing's normally poor air, choked by car exhaust, factory emissions, and construction dust, deteriorates when thousands of coal-burning heating plants and smaller domestic coal stoves are lit in the winter.


China, already the world's fastest growing car and energy market, has earmarked $7 billion of its total $37 billion Olympic budget to clean up the capital.


At the beginning of October, the city's skies were smothered by smog so thick if forced the rescheduling of two shows by a visiting French aerobatics team.


Pre-Olympic plans call for relocation of 200 polluting factories and treatment of more than 90 percent of sewage in the city's noxious canals by 2008.


Shougang Group was considering moving out of the city altogether in 2012 to help clean the air, state media said last year.


The Beijing Morning Post also said the city had spent 16 million yuan (US$1.93 million) to buy 40 street-sweeping trucks, which would be in use at the end of November.


Source: Reuters


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