Beijing scraps 'blue sky' air quality reports
ENVIRONMENTAL authorities in Beijing will no longer use the method of counting "blue sky days" as a gauge of air quality, a practice employed for more than a decade.
Beijing has used a five-grade classification of air quality on the basis of pollution indices, with grade I being the best and grade V the worst. Days with grade I or II are "blue sky days."
"But 'blue sky days' are only an average figure and can hardly reflect the specific situation of different areas in the city due to various factors including climate, geography and emissions," said Yu Jianhua, director of the Air Quality Department of the Beijing Environment Protection Bureau.
"Therefore, the air quality results we released were always different from the true feelings of the general public," he said.
Yu said local authorities will no longer count "blue sky days" starting this year.
"We will release the concentration indices of major pollutants for different areas in Beijing to measure the air quality, including particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide," he said.
The municipal government has set pollution-reduction targets for districts and county governments for 2012, requiring an average 2 percent drop yearly in the indices of major pollutants, he said.
In 2011, Beijing had 286 days of "blue skies," or 78.4 percent of the year, according to a report issued on Monday.
"That was our last report on 'blue sky days,' " Yu said.
China currently uses PM10, or particular matter with diameter of 10 micrometers or less, to measure air quality, but the public has urged authorities to apply the stricter PM2.5 standard, which measures finer matter considered more hazardous as it can go deeper into the lungs.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection has ordered 74 cities to apply a more comprehensive standard and publish daily reports on PM2.5 by the end of this year.
Cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, as well as southwest China's Chongqing municipality and all provincial capitals, have been asked to monitor for PM2.5 starting in October and publish results before year's end. Beijing began releasing hourly PM2.5 readings in January, but they cover only a few areas.
"We are purchasing more equipment for monitoring PM2.5," Yu said.
"By the end of this year, all 35 monitoring stations will be built around the city and began releasing data in this regard."
Shanghai Daily News/Xinhua
07 June 2012