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China Hopes For 'Green' Olympics But Prepares to Fight Smog

FILE - A general view shows the skyline of Beijing, China, shrouded in smog, March 15, 2021. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)
FILE - A general view shows the skyline of Beijing, China, shrouded in smog, March 15, 2021. (REUTERS/Tingshu Wang)
China Hopes For 'Green' Olympics But Prepares to Fight Smog
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China is using the Winter Olympic Games to strengthen its efforts to improve the environment. But Beijing, where the Games will take place, has a lot of smog. As a result, the city is preparing for the worst.

Beijing has improved its air quality since the International Olympic Committee awarded the city with the Winter Olympic Games. But the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has said winter smog risks remained "severe."

A ministry spokesman told reporters recently that plans were in place in the city and nearby province.

"When the time comes, Beijing and Hebei will be guided to adopt reasonable environmental protection measures in accordance with the law," the spokesman said.

He said reports that heavily polluting industries in the area would be closed after January 1 were "not true."

Critics warned in 2015 -- when Beijing was awarded the Games -- that dangerous smog would threaten the Winter Olympics. The area is surrounded by big industry.

Chinese President Xi Jinping then promised to run a "green" Games. Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, promised to "transform and upgrade" its industrial economy.

Since then, China has planted thousands of hectares of trees around Beijing. Hebei province has built large wind and solar farms for creating electricity. And the government has moved hundreds of businesses.

PM2.5 is a form of pollution in the air. In 2016, the level of PM2.5 pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area was 71 micrograms per cubic meter. The level rose to more than 500 micrograms over the winter. That is compared to an average of 40 micrograms from January to September of 2021.

The reading in Beijing was 33 micrograms in the first nine months of the year. That meets China's 35-microgram limit. But it is higher than the level suggested by the World Health Organization of five micrograms. Beijing’s pollution levels are likely to rise much higher over the winter.

"China will win many medals at the Winter Olympics, but the smog...could plunge the Games into difficulties," said the International Fund for China's Environment, a Washington-based group, earlier this year.

Officials said during a government-organized trip recently that all 26 Olympic areas in Beijing and Hebei province would be completely powered by renewable energy. More than 700 hydrogen-powered vehicles will also be used.

China has said it would make the Games "carbon neutral" for the first time. Environmental group Greenpeace said without more information it would be hard to know whether the goal of not increasing carbon gasses in the atmosphere was met.

Water shortages are another concern, especially for the effort to make artificial snow and ice.

Organizers said the Games would not put additional pressure on local water supplies. Officials said they would use mountain water and rainfall from the summer months.

I’m Dan Novak.

Voice of America reported this story. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

smogn. a mixture of fog and smoke; polluted, cloudy-like air

adopt –v. to accept or approve

in accordance with –phrase in a way that agrees with or follows

transform– v. to change completely

upgrade v. to make (something) better by including the most recent information or improvements

plunge (into)v. to cause something to happen suddenly

renewable adj. able to be restored or replaced naturally

artificial – adj. not natural; made by people using industry, machines or processes