(AFP) – Jul 10, 2008
BEIJING (AFP) — Beijing authorities insisted Thursday air quality in the Chinese capital had improved enough to meet its Olympic targets, even as the city remained shrouded in smog less than a month before the Games.
The city's Environmental Protection Bureau said efforts to reduce traffic and factory emissions meant it could guarantee clean air during the Games.
"The true indicators of air quality have in recent days shown a marked improvement," said spokesman Du Shaozhong at a press conference.
Beijing is one of the world's most polluted cities, and in recent weeks a thick blanket of cloud and pollution has covered the city almost every day.
Despite this, Du said authorities had met their target of ensuring pollution in the city met its health standards for 70 percent of the days this year.
Nevertheless, Du acknowledged more needed to be done.
"Even though we say that air quality is improving year-on-year, it still falls below our standards on 30 percent of days, and we must devote our efforts to make Beijing a pleasant city to live in," he said.
Pollution levels remain one of the biggest challenges for the Olympic Games -- designed to showcase China's rise as a modern power -- and some athletes have spoken of withdrawing from events because of the health threat.
Authorities here are counting on a measure due to be implemented on July 20 that will force cars with even and odd number plates to run on alternate days.
Experts say authorities in Beijing have reduced pollution levels by relocating factories, but the city remains affected by pollution from neighbouring areas.
It must therefore count on rain and wind dispersing the fine particles that cause air pollution.
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