Beijing's normally smog-shrouded skyline was clearly visible yesterday as the government's last-minute Olympic pollution controls went into effect across the city and nearby districts.
For the next two months, car drivers will be allowed to use their vehicles only on alternate days – depending on whether their registration plate ends in an odd or even number – in an attempt to reduce Beijing's notorious congestion and air pollution.
Work on the city's tallest building, the China World Trade Tower III, was suspended yesterday as a construction ban went into effect, and numerous polluting factories in wide areas surrounding the Chinese capital shut temporarily or reduced output in order to help clear the air during next month's Olympics.
“The air is very good today, but it rained a bit last night and at lunchtime, which might have something to do with it,” Feng Caihua, a Beijing resident, said yesterday.
Officials said the traffic restrictions should take nearly half of the city's 3.3m cars off the road and reduce exhaust emissions by 63 per cent during the Olympic period.
About 10,000 cameras and other monitoring devices have been installed to catch drivers who flout the odd-even number-plate restrictions. Offenders will be fined Rmb100 ($14, €9, £7).
Concerns over the shocking levels of air pollution in Beijing have led a number of national teams to train elsewhere. Haile Gebrselassie, the leading Ethiopian runner, has withdrawn from the marathon because he fears the grime will exacerbate his asthma.
The Chinese government says it has spent more than Rmb120bn to improve the city's air quality, and has been trying to promote the games as the first-ever “green Olympics”.
But China has had a hard time convincing the world of its green credentials in a year when some environmentalists estimate that the country overtook the US as the world's biggest carbon emitter.
At the weekend, the city unveiled three new underground railway lines, and officials have promised to put 2,000 more buses on the road to help transport the estimated 4m extra commuters who will switch to public transport on the days they cannot use their cars.
随着建筑禁令开始生效，北京的最高建筑——中国国际贸易中心三期(China World Trade Tower III)工程昨日已经停工。为了帮助净化下个月奥运会期间的空气，北京周边广大地区的众多污染性工厂已暂时停工或减产。