BEIJING, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Beijing is to open its air-quality monitoring center to the public on a regular basis after criticism mounted over the methods it uses to gauge the city's notorious pollution.
The move, announced Tuesday, is meant to allow ordinary citizens to learn by themselves how the air quality in Beijing is monitored, said Hua Lei, vice head of the municipal government's environmental protection monitoring center.
"With their rising quality of life, Beijing residents are increasingly concerned about the environment," Hua said. "We hope the new move can allay the public's fears."
Beijing's air-quality monitoring authorities have come under fire recently as a growing number of celebrities and high-profile intellectuals have joined forces to call for the adoption of stricter standards to control pollution.
Beijing's air quality appears to have deteriorated over the years as the Chinese capital has become clogged by ever-growing numbers of people and cars. From time to time, the sky has been blanketed by choking yellowish smogs, but the authorities kept rating air pollution as "slight" or "moderate."
The public's suspicion peaked after the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, using a different set of standards that measure finer particular matter than those employed by city authorities , rated the air quality as "hazardous," a scenario that warrants official warnings about outdoor activities.
Pressure has grown for Beijing to use PM2.5, the gauge applied by the U.S. Embassy, instead of the current PM10, which tracks coarser particular matter, to monitor air quality.
But the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau defended its stance, saying that the capital's air quality has actually been improving since 2008 and it is proven by the monitoring statistics.
Beijing had 63 days of excellent air quality in the past 10 months, 12 days more than in the same period in 2008, it said, adding that the Air Pollutant Index, an indicator of the air quality, suggests that the air quality of 239 days so far this year had been good.
Hua said the monitoring center would now start opening to the public every Tuesday. Individuals need to phone beforehand to book a time slot.
Three "citizen representatives" paid a visit to the center on Nov. 8. They were shown around its facilities and had questions answered, including one concerning PM2.5 and PM10, by weather specialists, the official said.
The citizen representatives made suggestions such as opening the center at weekends, instead of during the week, to allow more people to visit, and their points were noted, said Hua.