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Clean Air for the Olympic Games in China?

It’s no secret that China’s massive population contributes to the country’s carbon dioxide emissions problem. Plus, China is home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

And that’s why there is such controversy about having the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. With all the smog that is notoriously linked to Beijing and nearby cities, the pressure for cleaner air is forcing Chinese environmental officials to quickly meet international pollution standards.

Just how bad is pollution in China?

There were over 250,000 riots or public disturbances in 2005 in China that were linked to pollution.

One story of a pollution riot centered on a woman named Chen Li Fang. She lived with her husband on a farm in the Hunan Province raising animals and rice.

Then a chemical processing plant moved in a mile away, and Chen and other villages started to experience health problems such as stomach pains and vomiting. Cattle started to die and fields stopped producing rice.

The villagers realized that the smog and chemicals from the plant, which had been pouring into the Xiang River (their source for drinking water), were the main culprits of their declining health.

Chen organized a riot with other villagers to overtake the factory, but she received a short jail term when the police stormed the building.

After her release she slept 2 weeks in a train station to meet with an official from the Environmental Protection Administration, but still had no luck.

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Finally, after reaching lawyers at the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, she is filing a lawsuit against the plant.

You can read the rest of Chen’s story here.

If this is just one story from one citizen living in the country, can you imagine what the factories and buildings are doing in overpopulated cities like Beijing?

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The Olympics

When Beijing made a bid in 2001 to be the host of the 2008 Olympics, it promised to show that it would meet the international standards on four major pollutants:

  • Sulfur Dioxide ‘ Can cause breathing problems, sore throat and coughing.
  • Nitrogen Dioxide ‘ Poisonous if inhaled.
  • Inhalable Particles ‘ Can cause lung damage.
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand ‘ Amount of organic compounds in water.

Right now Beijing meets 3 of the 4 standards (still working on inhalable particles), and State Environmental Protection AdministrationVice Minister Zhang Lijun says everything will be done to ensure that the city has clean air.

Can it be done?

Until the air standards are satisfactory, some athletes are choosing to train outside of China.

You can read the entire article here.

Hopefully the air will be clean enough for the Olympic athletes to excel at their events. It’s already a tragedy that pollution has taken away the livelihood of people like Chen.

It would be an equal tragedy for athletes who have worked their entire lives to be impeded by something that we could have controlled all along.

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