Culture et sport

Air pollution decreased in Beijing ahead of the Olympics

Ahead of Beijing Winter Olympics, China's capital recorded its cleanest air in almost 10 years.

Beijing smog, China, 2021
Beijing smog, China, 2021 | © Jimmy Jin

Air pollution significantly decreased in China, and Beijing in particular where the country will host the Winter Olympics from February 4 to February 20.

Air pollution in 339 Chinese cities improved in 2021 by almost 10%. The average concentrations of small and hazardous airborne particles (PM2.5) were down 9.1% from a year earlier, according to China's official data released on January 31.

China recorded an average of 30 micrograms per cubic meter last year. It is below its own standard of 35μg but well above the 5μg recommended by the World Health Organization.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment said average concentrations of all major pollutants - including ground-level ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide - fell in the 339 monitored cities last year.

Tackling air pollution in the region has been a major priority for the country, especially ahead of the Winter Olympics, which will begin in Beijing and Hebei's Zhangjiakou this week.

Last Monday, Beijing air pollution even stood within the WHO standards during the Lunar New Year's Eve.

With average concentrations of PM2.5 at 5μg, this was way below the 289μg for the Lunar New Year's Eve in 2021.

Traditionally, Chinese people celebrate Lunar New Year's eve by lighting firecrackers, hoping to get rid of bad luck. But this year Beijing introduced a full ban on fireworks rather than the usual ban restricted in the city center.

The authorities did not make a direct link between the ban on fireworks and the Winter Olympics.

However, authorities have shut polluting firms and boosted clean energy consumption to improve conditions and reduce the smog in Beijing.

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