(Xinhuanet News, Dec. 31, 2004) Beijing has achieved goal of improving air quality in 2004, a top municipal environmental official said in the end of last year.
Du Shaozhong, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB), said in an interview on December 31, 2004 that 229 days had good or better air quality in 2004, accounting for 62.5 percent of the total number of days in the year. The number was two days more than the official target, dubbed as “Mission Blue Sky”.
In addition, the daily average level of sulfur dioxide pollution in the air had dropped for the first time below the national benchmark over the past two decades.
Du said Beijing had seen 32 days with “excellent” air quality and 197 days with good air quality last year as compared with national standards. The days with blue sky in 2004 were 35.2 percent more than in 1998. Du said another 120 days in 2004 had lightly polluted air, while the remaining 17 days had polluted or seriously polluted air. As compared with six years ago, the number of polluted or highly polluted days in 2004 had decreased dramatically from 141 to 17. Meanwhile, Du said the level of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other inhaleable particles in the air had decreased by 54 percent, four percent and 17 percent respectively over six years ago.
Du said over the past year, the municipal government had adopted various measures to reduce the emission of air pollutants. He said the city had turned all the 44,000 coal-burning cooking ovens and 13,000 coal-fired heating burners in the city into natural gas burning ones. The area of buildings with central heating increased from 36 million square meters to 88 million square meters. As a result, the city’s consumption of natural gas jumped from 0.3 billion cubic meters in 1998 to 2.5 billion cubic meters in 2004.
In order to avoid wind erosion of soil, the city planted 1,000 hectares of trees in downtown areas and more than 26,000 hectares of trees in rural areas in 2004. It also took measures to preserve farm lands and restore forestation to dried-up riverbeds at Yongding and Chaobai Rivers.
Du said despite obvious improvement of air quality, Beijing is still facing difficult tasks of controlling air pollution. He said the level of inhaleable particles in the air and photochemical pollution in summer and autumn are still high. He said there is still a long way ahead for Beijing to meet national air quality standards and the requirement of staging the 2008 Olympic Games.