MAC: Mines and Communities

China update

Published by MAC on 2007-04-13

China update

13th April 2007

Regional Pollution Could Overwhelm Beijing's Clean Air Efforts


13th April 2007

Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Beijing Municipality says it will employ new measures to raise the number of days of good air quality to 67 percent and cut down the emission of sulfur dioxide by 10 percent this year. But control of Beijing's air quality is not entirely in the city's hands. New research shows pollution blows in from other cities in the region.

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said today that to bring the coal-burning pollutants under control, the city will use new energy sources to replace coal for the 1,105 remaining coal-fired boilers under 20 tons in the downtown area.

Coal will be replaced by other sources of power for the 20,000 families living in one-story houses in the Dongcheng and Xicheng districts, and for residents living within the Fifth-Ring Road, an area where urban and rural areas overlap.

To control vehicle pollutants, authorities are going to enforce the IV national emission standard for new vehicles in 2008.

In addition, a total of 2,580 old buses and 5,000 taxis and other highly polluting vehicles will be taken off the roads, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau said. In 2006, 15,000 polluting taxis and over 3,000 buses were eliminated while 4,000 natural gas driven buses were put into operation.

New measures are being put in place to control industrial pollution within the Beijing Municipality.

The Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau says the city's five coal-burning power plants will complete their dust removal, desulfuration and denitration plans.

The Capital Steel Plant must cut down production by four million tons, while the No II Chemical Plant and the Organic Chemical Plant will stop production altogether.

Since 1988 Beijing has gone through 12 phases of air quality control. During the 13th phase in 2007, the city will also strive to control dust pollution, protect its ecological environment and promote the Green Olympics concept, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.

The objectives for the Olympic Games period set in 2004 by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games, BOCOG, are that concentrations of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ground-level ozone should meet World Health Organization guidelines, and that particle concentrations should be comparable to levels in major cities in the developed countries.

But a study of Beijing's air quality just completed by a joint team of Chinese and U.S. scientists concludes that emission sources far from Beijing exert a significant influence on Beijing's air quality.

To ensure a healthy atmosphere for athletes and spectators at the 2008 Summer Olympics, scientists at Tsinghua University, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have been working with the U.S. Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the University of Tennessee.

The team has researched and modeled the local and regional contributors to Beijing's air quality, leading to a greater understanding of regional air quality management and development of new emission control strategies.

One model by Chinese scientists found that emissions in China's third largest city, Tianjin, contributed 10 to 33 percent of the smog in Beijing.

The same study found that emissions in Hebei Province contributed six to 13 percent to Beijing smog pollution. Tianjin Municipality borders Hebei province to the north, south, and west - the municipality of Beijing is to the northwest.

"Typical industrial, coal-burning cities within several hundred kilometers of Beijing add to the local pollution," said David Streets, a senior scientist in Argonne's Decision and Information Sciences Division. "In these areas, emission controls on stationary sources and vehicles are not as stringent as in Beijing, and emissions are high.

"Air quality in Beijing in the summertime is dictated by meteorology and topography," Street explained. Each province's contribution varies greatly from day to day, depending on wind direction and other meteorological factors.

"Typically, temperatures are high, humidity is high, wind speeds are low, and the surrounding hills restrict venting of pollution. Thus, regional pollutants and ozone build up over several days until dispersed by wind or removed by rain," he said.

Steve Page, director of EPA's Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, said, "Over the past several years, Beijing has implemented a number of measures to improve air quality, and China is now looking at regional approaches to meeting air quality standards similar to successful approaches used in the U.S. The air quality improvements from their actions will benefit everyone."

The report, "Air quality during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," concludes that, even in the event that Beijing generates no manmade emissions, levels of particulate matter, PM, and ozone could still be high and could exceed healthful levels under unfavorable meteorological conditions.

"Because the limit of zero emissions cannot be achieved in practice, and because China is presently undergoing tremendous economic growth, the threat of higher regional emissions and higher concentrations of PM and ozone by 2008 is very real," the report states.

This report has been widely cited by Chinese policy makers, including the Beijing mayor, in requesting that the central government implement unprecedented regional control programs to ensure that the air quality goals for 2008 will be met in Beijing.

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