On 20 Sep the Olympic/Paralympic traffic restrictions (odd/even) were lifted, and then something remarkable happened: people started to talk about how nice it had been with less cars on the roads, and according to a Greenpeace poll (China Daily), even 54% of car owners wanted some sort of restrictions to stay in place. On 11 Oct a 6 month experiment has started that takes 20% of the cars off the roads each weekday. I think the most important result of this could be that most car driving people are now forced to look into alternative means of transport (subway, bus, bike, car pooling..) and that they realise that those alternatives actually make a lot of sense, and hopefully, use them more often than once a week. Below a graph that shows the API of past months, with those 2 dates.
If we look at monthly averages, keeping in mind that the yearly average has been around 100 over the past years, it is clear that the past months have been exceptional:
- August: 56
- September: 57
- October: 75
- November (incomplete): 88
From the start of 2008 until 17 Nov, we are looking at an average API of 87 which is better than the previous years, but still no reason to celebrate. We are still often having bad days with API of over 100 which is by all standards unhealthy.
Earlier this month i attended a clean air conference in Beijing, organised by Tsinghua University with participants from MEP and USA-EPA. I was quite impressed to hear about how they have been working years in advance on a master plan to limit the air pollution during the Olympics. It all came down to a ‘regional approach’, in which the surrounding provinces were involved in the efforts, because it has been proven that a large portion of the fine dust, and other pollutants, does not originate in Beijing. The provincial officials seems a bit to triumphant; but i have to give them the credit that the relatively-clean air Olympics were more than just a bit of luck- let’s hope that the lessons learnt will be kept into practice.