BEIJING, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- The air quality in Beijing so far this month has been the best for any summer period over the last 10 years -- and within Olympic standards, a city official said on Tuesday.
At a press conference, Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection deputy director Du Shaozhong also said Beijing was fulfilling its commitment on good air quality for the Olympics and pledged that the capital would make more effort after the Games to improve air quality.
BEST RECORD OF AIR QUALITY IN 10 YEARS
"From Aug. 1 to 18, Beijing's air quality was within the standards to host the Olympics," he said. "Of the 18 days, Beijing reported grade I air quality in nine days, and in the other nine days, the air quality was grade II."
Du said the air quality would be grade I again on Tuesday, five days before the closing of the Beijing Games on Aug 24. Earlier, the China Environmental Monitoring Center (CEMC) forecast Beijing's Air Pollution Index (API) on Tuesday would range between 30 to 50.
If so, it would be the fourth consecutive day so far this month for Beijing to report grade I air quality, which came after several days of rainfalls early last week. Rain, along with wind, often helps Beijing clear its pollutants.
In the Chinese air quality monitoring system, grade I is excellent with an API reading from 1 to 50. Grade II is fairly good, with an API reading from 51 to 100.
In the first 18 days of August, the average daily API reading was 56, much lower than 81 for the same period last year, Du said.
This was the best average summer API record for the last 10 years. July 2006 saw five days of excellent air quality and last August had only two such days.
Air quality would remain excellent if the weather was conducive to dispersing pollutants. Even without such conditions, the air quality would be grade II, within the standards for the Olympics, Du said.
He attributed the improved air quality to efforts by authorities in Beijing and neighboring regions to curbing air pollution control over the last nine years, especially this year.
"These figures prove that measures to improve air quality for the Beijing Games, particularly the temporary measures to cut emissions, have been playing a positive role. We are earnestly fulfilling our commitment to ensuring good air quality during the Olympics," he said.
"Without the emission-cutting measures, such as the temporary closure of some factories, the closure of heavily polluting plants and vehicle use restrictions, we would not have improved Beijing's air quality," he said.
Beijing municipal government has said it had invested more than 140 billion yuan (20.5 billion U.S. dollars) since 1998 into more than 200 projects for improving the city's air quality.
Before the Games, it implemented drastic measures to reduce pollution, including ordering about two-thirds of Beijing's 3.3 million cars off the road on alternate days under an even-odd license plate system from July 20 to Sept. 20, during the Olympics and the Paralympics.
With the restriction measure, nearly half of Beijing's population of more than 16 million used public transit during the Olympics, the city's authorities said earlier.
Neighboring Tianjin municipality and Hebei, Shanxi and Shandong provinces, and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, were also helping by closing major polluters, removing high-emission cars from roads and restoring grassland vegetation.
Du said Beijing's air quality had been improving gradually since 1998. When Beijing started to monitor air quality and the number of fairly good or excellent days in 1998, it was only 100. The figure reached 246 in 2007.
Du thanked residents of Beijing and neighboring regions for their contributions to improving air quality.¡¡
MORE EFFORTS AFTER OLYMPICS
Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau, told the press conference that Beijing's weather has continued improving since the Games' opening ceremony on Aug. 8.
"Since Aug. 8, Beijing has seen rain every two or three days. On Wednesday night and Thursday, we are expecting more rain. On Aug. 24, Beijing might be cloudy," he said.
Guo said that on Friday, his bureau would provide a more detailed forecast for the Games' closing ceremony.
Du also said the sports event is helping raise public environmental protection awareness, but more education will still be needed after the Olympics as Beijing aims to further improve the air quality.
"The Games have given us a good opportunity. During the event, the air quality has further improved. After the Games, we will keep up the momentum and our efforts," he said.
Du said many measures adopted by the municipal government over the years were intended to achieve long-term effects and these measures would continue helping improve Beijing's air quality after the Games.
According to Du's agency, the city took more than 200 measures to improve air quality in the past 10 years.
More clean energy, such as natural gas, was used. For example, in 1998, Beijing used just 300 million cubic meters of natural gas. The figure rose to 4.7 billion cubic meters last year.
Since March 1, Beijing has adopted the same automobile emission standards as the European Union. And the city has replaced 50,000 taxis and 10,000 buses with environment-friendly vehicles.
More than 200 heavily polluting enterprises were relocated or closed.
As for temporary measures during the Games to cut emissions, including the even-odd vehicle license plate system, Du said they would continue to function in certain forms. He didn't elaborate. He also avoided a question about whether the even-odd system would continue after the Beijing Games.
"After the Olympics, whatever measures we take to cut car emissions or curb coal pollution, our goal is to bring the city's air quality to a new level," he added.