GUANGZHOU, China—On the the eve of the opening of the , the world's second largest sports event, host city is looking greener—at least cosmetically.
In a last-ditch push to reduce air pollution in this smog-choked industrial powerhouse, capital of China's Guandong Province, a few weeks ago government officials issued a raft of measures, big and small, intended to minimize pollutants.
No barbequeing, the city commanded its inhabitants. Stop construction. Stop driving. Take the subway—it’s now free.
Last week, Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau head Ding Hongdu said the agency was using an “iron fist” to clean the air.
But skeptics doubt the impact of these short-term tactics, and there are no reliable measurements to indicate whether they are having any effect on Guanzhou’s air quality. Moreover, noncompliance abounds.
"Yes, the air is feeling cleaner—only because of the autumnal breeze," said Kuang Mei, who runs a snack shop in downtown Guangzhou. "All the government has done is mostly for show." Kuang recalled the peak of this past summer, when the stifling combination of low air pressure and a high concentration of particulates made it difficult to breathe.
As if on cue, a diesel-burning motorbike pulled up in front of Kuang’s shop to deliver goods nearby.
The city government's aggressive campaign to reduce air pollution—including a ban on motorcycles since 2007—has been six years in the making. In that time period, Ding said in a press conference last week, more than 6,000 factories were ordered to undergo upgrades, and 147 factories that had repeatedly failed pollution tests were shut down or relocated to the fringes of Guangdong Province, according to state media reports.
None of these figures have been independently verified. The international environmental NGO most active in the region, , does not monitor air quality in Guangzhou.
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