Beijing’s pre-Olympic anti-pollution controls went into effect on Sunday and a couple of days on, this Bystander is told, they are having some beneficial effect in making the city less smoggy.
Car drivers may now use their vehicles only on alternate days, new building work has stopped, and, perhaps most importantly, smoke-belching factories around the capital have cut output.
The measures are based on work funded by the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency and conducted by the U.S. Energy Department’s Argonne Laboratory, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing and Tsinghua Universities and the University of Tennessee, which collectively modeled contributions to Beijing’s air quality. It was this research that lead to implementation of regional and not just local measures, after industrial cities several hundred kilometers away such as Shijiazhuang, Qingdao, Jinan and Taiyuan were fingered for helping make the capital’s air dirty.
More than a third of the air pollution comes from outside the city, the research found, so tightening the pollution controls in those surrounding cities will help the capital’s residents breathe a bit easier even once the cars are back on the roads in Beijing and construction restarts.
The research report also notes the importance of meteorology and topography to the city’s air quality. As Beijing is typically hot and clammy at this time of year, there isn’t much of a breeze and the hills to the north and west slow the dispersion of pollution, a few more windy or rainy days would really help.