A Year After the Olympics, Beijing's Air Quality Back at Square One

By Allison Bond | August 4, 2009 3:52 pm

BeijingLast summer, we speculated whether the air pollution in China—home to the tirelessly-publicized 2008 summer Olympics—could prove hazardous to the health of the Games’ athletes and spectators. Still, the nation managed to clean up its air that summer by closing factories and allowing cars to hit the roads only every other day.

Unfortunately, the trend was too good to last: The veil of smog suspended over Beijing is back just a year later, and the nation’s air quality is now rated “hazardous” by the embassy. Although the so-called “Green Olympics” might have raised public awareness about the pollution in China, its political effects have been paltry. AFP reports:

“It changed the public mentality and made people remember the clear days we had 20 years ago and wonder why can’t we have that again. That’s a big achievement,” said [China climate and energy campaigner Yang Ailun].

However, the fact that China had to basically shut down much of the city of 18 million to meet its Olympic clean-air promises, showed that little real progress has been made.

“The Beijing experience did not provide any examples of cost-effective policies that can actually deliver results. All the major measures taken by the city were expensive and not easily replicated elsewhere,” she said.

Beijing maintains some restrictions on how many cars can be on the road on any given day, for example—but with the addition of 1,500 cars daily, such a measure is a little like teaspooning water out of a sinking aircraft carrier.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Could Beijing’s Polluted Air Sicken Olympic Spectators?
Discoblog: The Air Over There: As the Olympics End, a Look Back at Air Quality
Discoblog: 1/3 of China’s Yellow River Not Even Fit for Industrial Use

Image: flickr / kevindooley

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  • daxiongben

    It’s the economy, stupid, unfortunately. The government has subsidised the return to glory of the construction industry and everyone is busy producing whatever, however, since there is a lot of free money going around. This means that pollution, especially the industrial smog, is back to ‘normal’. It also shows that all the vows about things being and remaining green where quickly thrown away once the government decided that making money and keeping people happy was better than keeping them healthy.
    The situation in Beijing is absolutely dire.

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  • Mike

    Yuck..and doesnt much of it float over to the US and haze up our skies?

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