Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beijing facing an environmental Armageddon?

Today the authorities in Beijing introduced new traffic regulations which it is hoped will remove more than 1.65 million cars from the roads each day.
The rules, in effect until September 20, ban cars with odd- and even-numbered licence plates from the roads on alternate days.

They are part of a wider drive to clear the air in Beijing, which is one of the world's most polluted cities and is regularly enveloped in an acrid smog- a product of humidity, traffic and industrial pollution. So bad is the situation that the New Zealand Olympic team will wear carbon filter masks around the Olympic village to help them cope with the pollution.

After September 20th it is back to normal as an estimated extra 1.65 million cars will go back on the streets of Beijing. Obviously the health of the 17 million inhabitants is of secondary importance. Failure to tackle this problem on a permanent basis will result in catastropic health problems in the future for a large proportion of the population. The financial implications will be horrendous as authorities struggle to wrestle with the consequences.

For the duration of the Olympics it is much more important to showcase the Communist system and enforce higher environmental standards. In the aftermath of the Olympics many of these standards will be dispensed with.

Beijing faces an environmental Armageddon unless the authorities plot a new and radical environmental course. Beijing is not an isolated case. It is believed that 99% of the inhabitants of large urban centres in China breathe in unsafe air. In addition most of the rivers and lakes are seriously polluted whilst 37% of the Chinese land area suffers from soil erosion.

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