China hopes for ‘green’ Olympics but braces to fight smog

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China is using the Winter Olympics to strengthen its efforts to improve the environment. But Beijing, where the Games will take place, has a lot of smog. As a result, the city is preparing for the worst.

Beijing has improved its air quality since the International Olympic Committee awarded the city the Winter Olympics. But the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said the risk of winter smog remained “serious”.

A ministry spokesperson recently told reporters that plans were in place in the city and neighboring province.

“When the time comes, Beijing and Hebei will be guided towards adopt reasonable environmental protection measures in agreement with the law, ”the spokesperson said.

He said reports that heavily polluting industries in the region would be shut down after January 1 was “not true”.

Critics warned in 2015 – when Beijing won the Games – that dangerous smog would threaten the Winter Olympics. The region is surrounded by a large industry.

Chinese President Xi Jinping then promised to organize “green” Games. Hebei Province, which surrounds Beijing, has promised to “transform and to improve“its industrial economy.

Since then, China has planted thousands of acres of trees around Beijing. Hebei Province has built large wind and solar farms to generate electricity. And the government has moved hundreds of businesses.

PM2.5 is a form of air pollution. In 2016, the level of PM2.5 pollution in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region was 71 micrograms per cubic meter. The level reached over 500 micrograms during the winter. This is compared to an average of 40 micrograms from January to September 2021.

The reading in Beijing was 33 micrograms in the first nine months of the year. This respects China’s limit of 35 micrograms. But it is above the level suggested by the World Health Organization of five micrograms. Beijing’s pollution levels are likely to rise much more during the winter.

“China will win many medals at the Winter Olympics, but the smog … could dive the Games in trouble, ”China’s International Environment Fund, a Washington-based group, said earlier this year.

Officials said on a recent government tour that the 26 Olympic areas in Beijing and Hebei Province would be fully powered by renewable energy. More than 700 hydrogen vehicles will also be used.

China has said it will make the Games “carbon neutral” for the first time. The environmental group Greenpeace said without further information that it would be difficult to know whether the goal of not increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been achieved.

Water shortages are another concern, especially for the effort to make artificial snow and ice.

Organizers said the Games would not put additional pressure on the local water supply. Officials said they would use mountain water and rainfall from the summer months.

I am Dan Novak.

Voice of America reported this story. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in this story

smognm a mixture of fog and smoke; polluted and cloudy air

adopt –V. accept or approve

according to -phrasing in a way that agrees with or follows

transform– v. completely change

to improve v. improve (something) by including the most recent information or improvements

jump in)v. cause something suddenly

renewable adj. can be restored or replaced naturally

artificial – adj. not natural; manufactured by people using industry, machines or processes


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