Beijing orders dust, pollution control measures for Olympics

(dpa) - China on Monday announced more plans to control industrial pollution, vehicle emissions and suspended dust particles to improve Beijing's air quality during the Olympic Games in August.

The city government will ban all excavations and concrete pouring at construction sites from July 20 until September 20, Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, told reporters.

It will shut down inefficient coal boilers, stop work at quarries, cement and concrete plants around Beijing, and has ordered 19 heavy-polluting firms in the city to cut emissions by an extra 30 per cent in the three-month period, Du said.

Beijing also plans to control traffic from July, with measures to bar many public vehicles and limit the number of private cars on the road expected to remove about one-third of the city's 3.3 million vehicles.

Du said detailed traffic control measures will be announced later.

Contingency plans for the Olympic competition days in August include tougher "urgent control measures" to be used if Beijing experiences "extremely negative atmospheric conditions", he said.

The government will also ban the exterior use of paint and other materials containing solvents from July 20.

Some furniture, car repair and printing businesses may be temporarily closed if they fail to meet emissions standards, Du said.

Beijing's neighbouring provinces will also suspend or reduce production at coal-burning factories and power plants before and during the games.

Marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie last month said he would not compete in the Olympic marathon because of fears that Beijing's air pollution would damage his health.

But after an inspection tour earlier this month, Hein Verbruggen, the International Olympic Committee's coordinator for the games, said he was "very satisfied" with China's assurances on air quality.

Arne Ljungqvist, the IOC's top medical official, said recently that Beijing's air quality was better than expected, but warned that conditions for athletes would not be ideal.

Ljungqvist said a study conducted last year showed that heat and humidity could prove more of a problem for athletes than pollution.

He said that events demanding high respiratory function for more than an hour could be rescheduled, depending on pollution and other factors such as heat, humidity and wind.

The United Nations Environmental Programme said last October that the relocation of major polluting industries, a switch away from coal burning and the scrapping of highly polluting vehicles in Beijing had spurred a fall in concentrations of several key air pollutants, including sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

But the agency said Beijing's level of small suspended particles, known as PM10, often greatly exceeded World Health Organization guidelines.

PM10 are hazardous inhalable particles between 2.5 and 10 micrometers in diameter.

Dust storms and mountains blocking the circulation of air in Beijing exacerbate the problem, the UN agency said.

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