Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Green Olympics in Beijing?

"Back in 2000, China was able to win the coveted right to host the summer Olympics in 2008 because it claimed that the Games would be “green.” Since then, the central government has been busily mapping an ambitious environmental protection plan to build gas-fired power plants, plant more trees, and improve the city’s air quality.
In late September, China’s Olympic Organizing Committee announced that the government may grant all of Beijing’s residents 16 days paid vacation during the Games, which start on August 8, 2008. “This is because the Games have a special requirement for the air quality,” said the committee.

This will enable the city to shut factories and businesses during the Games and keep thousands of cars off the streets. In addition, the government will close down “backstreet beauty salons,” China’s euphemism for houses of prostitution. Beijing will also likely expel about one million migrant workers from the capital city, some of whom are likely the same ones helping to build the Olympic facilities.
Even weirder is this: Chinese citizens from other provinces or cities will need approval from their local governments if they want to travel to Beijing during the Games, a move reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when China enforced similar laws that restricted travel within the country. Given all these measures, Beijing may not need other environmental protection regulations, as it appears the city will be shutting down in order to run the Games and comply with the environmental decrees.

All this demonstrates what has been known for a long time: in China, the number-one problem facing environmental protection is, in fact, the government. By ignoring the massive pollution problems caused by coal-burning power plants, the government has tacitly endorsed that pollution. China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), has openly admitted that 400 Chinese cities were hit by acid rain in the first half of this year. The NPC acknowledged the rapid deterioration of the country’s air and water quality, noting that the country’s sulfur dioxide emissions have risen by 27 percent since 2000, reaching some 25.5 million tons in 2005, twice the acceptable volume. China is the world’s biggest sulfur dioxide polluter. " - from Energy Tribune, 13 Oct 2006

At first, I don't know if this report is true but I saw other reports on the web saying basically the same thing. However, they stressed that these are just CONTIGENCY measures. It's a well known fact that many Chinese cities are heavily polluted. In fact, there has been reports of people who died running marathons in Beijing due to respiratory problems. Well, I think this must have in part to do with the air quality in Beijing.

The dust storms from the Gobi Desert is a huge threat too. In fact, Beijing is keeping count on the number of clear sky days and aims to hit around 150 days of clear day last year. Hopefully, they can resolve their pollution problems because no matter how grandiose the place is, it's not pretty when athletes all can't perform because of bad air.


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