Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Olympics: Green or Brown?

Beijing's pollution isn't a secret. But as part of its bid to secure the Olympic contract, the world's 13th filthiest city (according to a World Bank study) embarked on a massive cleanup. But can China really claim the summer games are green?


Green: Beijing authorities have claimed five straight years of air-quality improvement since 2002. Last year, Beijing's average daily Air Pollution Index was 100.69. Hoping to keep the reading below that Index for the duration of the games, Beijing has spent billions to close factories, stop construction and pull millions of cars off the roads each day in the last couple of weeks.

Brown: A National Resources Defense Council analyst recently questioned Beijing's five-year record, noting that two of seven air-quality monitoring devices were moved to less polluted locales in the city, and less stringent standards were set for the most hazardous particulate matters. What's more, an air pollution score under 100--a "blue sky" day in Beijing parlance--isn't the World Health Organization's definition of healthy air, nor likely the average tourist's. The Friday before last, for instance, was a relatively good day in Beijing, with a pollution score of 69. But compare that against a random selection of other cities--New York (16), London (22), Tokyo (20) and even America's smog capital, Los Angeles (30), and it's no wonder why a white mask is a regular accessory in Beijing.


Green: In preparation for the
Olympics, Chinese authorities announced that
Beijing was the first city in the country
with potable water, after passing 106
cleanliness tests devised by the Chinese

Brown: Secondary pollution from the city's old pipes means the water often has a strong metallic taste, residents complain. While officials have assured visitors that drinking water in the Olympic Village will be safe, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges Americans not to drink any water in China--unless it's been bottled, canned or boiled. And watch those water coolers--last year, half of them were found filled with tap water or from unregulated mom-and-pop suppliers--and then labeled with bogus safety seals.
Article © Rachel King,

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