BEIJING, July 25 (Xinhua) -- An official at the capital's environmental regulator
has shrugged off the notion of wearing masks in Beijing for fear
of poor air quality, saying masks would simply "add weight to visitors'
Du Shaozhong, deputy director with the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, told a press conference here on Friday that major air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter from vehicles have dropped by 20 percent in Beijing year-on-year, thanks to vehicle restrictions for the Olympics.
He said 22 of the first 25 days in July were "blue sky" days, or days with fairly good air quality.
"It's just a beginning, but the improvement is fairly obvious," Du said.
He added that Beijing is fully capable of maintaining clean air during the Olympics.
"Even on days that failed to reach the 'blue day' standard, major air pollutants have shown significant decreases compared with the past," Du said. He dismissed claims that the city's air quality had worsened since controls were imposed.
Beijing took 300,000 high-emission cars off its roads in early July. From July 20, private cars will be banned on alternate days according to their odd or even number license plates, in a bid to improve air quality and ease traffic congestion.
Traffic on major roads in Beijing dropped by 25 percent from July 20 to July 24 compared with that before July 1.
From June 23 to July 19, only half the 22,800 vehicles used by party, government and public institutions under the Beijing administration were allowed on the road. As of July 20, these vehicles came under the odd-even system, along with private vehicles.
The city had 145 "blue sky" days so far this year, 15 more than the same period last year, Du said.
Although residents and visitors have complained that the city is still covered by mist and fog, Du stressed that the air quality index is the only criterion for the "blue sky" days.
He admitted that Beijing's air quality might be affected by neighboring regions, but said environmental authorities had taken that possibility into account and worked out a joint plan with six provinces and cities around Beijing to improve air quality.
Du said Beijing has taken more than 200 measures since 1998 to improve the city's air quality, most of which will remain in force after the Games.
"A few measures, such as vehicle restrictions especially imposed for the Olympics, will not be carried out after the Games, at least not without modifications, but they surely provide us with experience in air quality improvement in the future," Du said.