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Shanghai confident of clean air for World Expo

2009. 19 April

by Wang Zhenghua
( The city of Shanghai will not take extreme measures, such as demanding temporary closure of polluting companies in Shanghai and nearby cities, to improve air quality for the sake of 2010 World Expo, city officials said over the weekend.

In an interview in Shanghai on Saturday, the city’s Party chief Yu Zhengsheng ruled out the possibility of shutting down polluting enterprises, a practice adopted by Beijing during last year’s Olympics and possibly by Guangzhou for 2010 Asian Games.

Years of efforts and investment on environmental issues have injected much confidence in the largest city in Yangtze River Delta to have clean air during the 2010 event.

“Shanghai’s air quality is better than most of the cities in northern part of China,” Yu said. “Shanghai World Expo will take a comprehensive evaluation of economic growth, people’s life and (Expo’s) security issues.”

He also said that it will be too costly to shut down companies, which might impose a negative impact on employment and government’s revenue. “The short-term improvement of environment index will not tackle the problems, let alone the fact that the Expo will last six to seven months. We won’t take such measures,” he added.

Yet the city will take more fundamental steps to improve environment, the official disclosed. For instance the city will require old public transport vehicles replaced with lower emissions ones and Shanghai will take experimental tests at a few power plants to reduce dust they discharged.

He also talked about a measure that might have an impact on hundreds of thousands of private car owners, but declined to elaborate before the government approves it.

China’s environmental issues, especially its polluting air, generate much attention from international society. The central authorities have ordered Beijing and its five surrounding provinces to cut industrial pollution for two months from last July, to ensure clean air for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Words also got out that Guangzhou is considering similar plans to ensure a clean Asian Games in 2010. But Shanghai has shown confidence on environmental issues, and it seems the city won’t take cars off the road temporarily to reduce exhaust emissions. By contrast, Beijing demanded around two million cars off the road during Olympics.

For the most of the time in recent years, Shanghai has a level-two air quality, Shanghai Vice-Mayor Yang Xiong told reporters on Saturday. The level-two air quality, according to China’s standard, is only next to the level-one quality required at natural reserves and famous natural sightseeing areas. It is also a goal aspired by many polluting cities in the country.

What’s more, Shanghai won’t put restrictions on cars from other provinces during the 2010 event, Shanghai World Expo Coordination Bureau chief Hong Hao said. But the city will not allow private cars, even taxi cabs, to drive near the 5.28-sq-m Expo garden, because of possible transport jams. Visitors could have a transfer at designated areas for subways or buses to the garden, he said.

Shanghai has fewer motor vehicles than Beijing, partly thanks to its regulation of charging tens of thousands of yuan for auctioning a car plate. Local media reports that Shanghai had 720,000 private cars at the end of 2008, compared to 2.48 million private cars in Beijing.

As China’s economic and financial hub, the city has launched several rounds of “three-year action plan” since 2002, when it won the bidding of 2010 Expo, to improve its environment.

In the last six years, Shanghai has invested an average of three percent of its GDP on environment improvement every year. The total inputs has surpassed 140 billion yuan, more than 50 percent from government investment.