Beijing denies cheating on smog
Study claims Olympics organisers have masked environmental problems.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2008 08:53 GMT

Pollution threatens some of the endurance
events [GALLO/GETTY]
A leading Beijing environmental official has denied charges that the city's pollution monitoring formula was changed to allow the Olympic host to meet environmental standards.

A study, which appeared last month in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal, claimed that in 2006 Beijing changed its system for measuring pollution.

It said readings from stations in two polluted areas were dropped in favour of readings from three other stations in cleaner areas.

It said the switch allowed Beijing to meet its goals for air quality in 2006 and 2007.

"Our monitoring system is still improving,'' said Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.

"Just as in any other city, the monitoring sites in Beijing are increasing. Our monitoring sites are still being adjusted and increasing according to the development of the city.''

"The position of the (monitoring) sites is according to the national standards and have been approved by the government and experts,'' Du added.

"There's no such thing as moving stations to less polluted areas. We saw some of the reports, and the figures and facts they provide are far from the truth.''

A major concern

Study author Steven Andrews said he spent more than a year in Beijing and based his report on government statistics.

The quality of Beijing's air has become a major concern.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has warned that some endurance events might be postponed if the air quality is poor.

Dozens of countries are basing their training camps outside China, with athletes opting to enter Beijing just before their events begin.

The world's greatest distance runner and marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie said he might skip the Olympic marathon, fearful for his long-term health.

Du promised clean air for the Olympic Games but offered few details of how Beijing would deliver.

He repeated previous commitments to close factories and building sites and reduce traffic, but offered few details and said information would come later.

"With efforts over the last few years, Beijing has seen undisputed improvements in air quality,'' Du said.

"We will honour all the environment-related commitments made during the Olympic bid,'' he added.

"We will have very stringent monitoring.''

He said during the Games air quality would meet World Health Organisation standards.

A mix of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide often blankets the city at levels five times higher than the WHO safety standards.

Du said between 1998 and 2007, sulfur dioxide in the capital's air was down by 60.8 percent. Other reductions included: carbon monoxide (39.4), nitrogen dioxide (10.8) and particulate (17.8).

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