Thursday, October 14, 2010

Guangzhou puts emphasis on 'bluer skies, cleaner water' ahead of Asiad

By Kim Young-gyo
GUANGZHOU/HONG KONG, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- In the run-up to next month's Asian Games, the Chinese city of Guangzhou has been ramping up efforts to shake off its image as one of the most polluted metropolises in the world's most populated country.

   The city in southern China will host the 16th Asiad from Nov. 12-27, in which about 12,000 athletes from 45 countries across the continent will compete for 476 gold medals in 42 sports.The main stadium Gymnasium, the main stadium of the 16th Asian Games to be held in Guangzhou, China, on Nov. 12-27. The muncipal government is eager to shake off its image as one of the most polluted cities in the country. (Yonhap)
Since the launch of China's economic reform in 1979, Guangzhou went through rapid industrialization and urbanization, as it was part of the most economically dynamic Pearl River Delta region.

   The city's economy continues to grow larger even today, with its growth rate reaching 11.5 percent in 2009 and 13.6 percent during the first six months of this year.

   Remnants of the rapid economic growth over the past few decades exist across the capital city of the Guangdong province, which is covered with a thick blanket of haze almost daily. The city's rivers or canals choked with silt can easily be witnessed on the outskirts of the city. Fish and shrimp caught there are not edible.

   Aware of dubious eyes cast on the city's efforts to become more eco-friendly, Guangzhou Mayor Wan Qingliang expressed his confidence that Guangzhou is prepared to greet visitors from within and outside the country.

   "I can surely tell you that we are ready. All of us in Guangzhou are ready," Wan said at a press conference on Wednesday.

   During the two hour-briefing to the press, Wan spent 25 minutes in explaining how Guangzhou can now offer "bluer skies and cleaner water" to its visitors.

   The Guangzhou city government invested an enormous sum to fight pollution in recent years in an effort to improve the city's water and air quality. More than 48.6 billion yuan (US$7.3 billion) was spent to battle water pollution from January 2009 to July this year.

   A total of 30 sewage treatment plants have been constructed in the past months to increase the city's sewage treatment capacity by 2.25 million tons a day, the municipal government claimed.

   The water quality in 121 rivers and streams with a total length of 388 kilometers has been improved, according to the officials.

   The Guangzhou government said it also made huge investments in high-tech measures to ensure air quality and meet state-mandated standards.

   Owners of large vehicles were required to use the highest-octane gasoline to reduce emissions, starting from September.

   The city's environmental protection bureau has set up 29 checkpoints to monitor vehicle emissions, while more than 30 chemical plants that produced polluting emissions in the city proper have been relocated or shut down.

   As of Wednesday, Guangzhou was classified as level 2, or fairly good, in terms of its air quality, said the state-run China Environmental Monitoring Center.

   Overwhelming reporters with much-detailed numbers such as the percentage of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and inhalable particles in the air, Wan was eager to persuade the reporters that new measures to curb air and water pollution were working effectively.

   "I might have bored you with this entire introduction. I apologize," he said.

   Some local media and critics, however, are putting a question mark on the effectiveness of Guangzhou's efforts, arguing the municipal government is simply pouring money down the drain.

   No wonder. China had a similar experience in 2008, when it hosted the Olympics Game in its capital Beijing.

   Despite the Chinese government measures to reduce the pollution around the city by shutting down factories, restricting car usage and slowing down construction, high levels of pollutants persisted.

   According to last year's findings by scientists from Oregon State University and Beijing University published in the professional journal Environmental Science and Technology, the Beijing Olympics had double the level of soot compared to Athens, triple compared to Atlanta and 3.5 times as much as Sydney.
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