Beijing pollution still twice WHO levels: Greenpeace
BEIJING - Beijing's air quality is still falling well short of international guidelines, despite desperate efforts to clean the Olympic host city's skies before the Games, a report by Greenpeace said Monday.
However, the city has met many of its commitments on environmental issues and will leave an important legacy for Beijing after the August Games, the organisation said in a report.
"Beijing's current air quality still faces major challenges presented by the country's booming economy and the rapid increase in car ownership," said the report, released on a day when thick haze shrouded the city centre.
"Although Beijing has undertaken factory upgrades to improve air quality in the city, more could have been done to move the city towards clean production methods."
Average concentration levels of particulates, one of the major measures of pollution, were still twice World Health Organisation guidelines, although they had met interim targets, the report found.
However, the city did have some success in reducing levels of sulphur dioxide to below WHO-recommended levels, according to the report, entitled "China after the Olympics: Lessons from Beijing".
The report found Beijing had not acted quickly enough to upgrade its public transport systems and limit private car ownership, which meant 120,000 new cars were added to the city's roads in the first quarter of 2008.
However, the report said the city had made some significant improvements.
"What is particularly unique about the 2008 Games is that they will leave an important environmental legacy for the city of Beijing in areas such as transportation infrastructure, energy efficiency, and in the development of renewable energy, water, and waste treatment capacities," the report said.
The report called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to issue minimum environmental standards for future Olympics.
IOC chief Jacques Rogge warned last year that poor air quality during the Games could result in the suspension of some events, particularly endurance races such as the marathon.
Beijing has closed many of the most polluting factories around the city and from July 20, issued a car ban, where private vehicles are only allowed in the streets on alternate days.
Despite the moves, visibility in the city remained poor on Monday, and officials have warned they may need to take even more drastic measures to clear the skies ahead of the Games, which start on August 8.