Beijing under pressure to tighten air monitoring

Updated: 2011-11-07 06:25


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BEIJING - China's real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi on Sunday joined a growing group of media and public intellectuals to call for using tighter monitoring standards to rein in Beijing's air pollution.

Pan, chairman of SOHO China, one of the largest developers in Beijing, initiated a public voting on his micro-blogging space on Sina Weibo to urge the authorities to use PM2.5, a widely used measurement to gauge finest particles in air, to check Beijing's air quality.

Beijing's meteorological authorities has been using PM10, which measures only coarser particles, to track the city's air pollution.

More than 21,203 people, about 95 percent of the voters who responded to Pan's initiative, agreed "the authorities would adopt PM2.5 measurement this year", four percent of the respondents believed "it can wait until next year" while only 1 percent opted for "there is no need for PM2.5 measurement."

The public debate on PM2.5 and PM10 first began when air quality monitoring results released by Beijing's weather forecast station and the US Embassy in Beijing often differed based on the different measurements.

While the results of the embassy described Beijing's air quality as "hazardous" or "dangerous," the Beijing weather forecast station said the pollution was only minor. Both sources defended their stances by saying that the difference was not manipulated but was the result of different measurements.

The debate intensified recently after the state broadcaster Central China Television (CCTV) aired a program hosted by popular commentator Bai Yansong calling for the adoption of PM2.5 measurement to track Beijing's air quality.

The program cited health experts as saying that fine particles are far more dangerous to human health and may cause cardiac and respiratory diseases as these smallest particles can be inhaled into the respiratory system while coarser particles are blocked through the nostril.

Experts say it is a worldwide trend to adopt PM2.5 measurement to check air quality and it is only a matter of time for Beijing to follow suit.

"Only when the state issues strong standards, the rules will be enforced by municipalities," Pan said. "And only when people have the knowledge of the air quality around them, will they change unhealthy behaviors."

Pan said he would wait a week to see the result of the voting and submit it to the Minister of Environmental Protection for policy consultation.