Chinese officials announce plans to clear air before Olympics


Chinese officials have recently announced a slew of temporary measures to clean up the capital's polluted air in time for the Olympic Games.

In a city teeming with cranes and round-the-clock building sites, officials plan to halt all construction and excavation by July 20. Heavy polluters and four coal-burning plants will have to further reduce emissions by 30 percent. Service stations and tanker trucks that have not been upgraded to meet certain environmental standards will be shut down. Even outdoor spray painting will be temporarily banned.

The announcements by Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, were part of an effort to convince skeptics that the city will be safe for the August 8-24 Olympic Games. Officials had previously announced many of the measures - they discussed others recently without providing specifics on implementation.

For example, officials said they would discuss - at another time - plans to order Beijing's 3.3 million vehicles to drive on alternate days, based on odd and even license plate numbers.

Du said that officials had a contingency plan of even more stringent measures in case of "extremely negative meteorological conditions" - but provided no details.

Critics maintain that Beijing's method of measuring pollution - counting 'blue sky days' - is misleading and glosses-over the severity of the problem. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned that some outdoor endurance events might have to be postponed if air quality does not improve.