Despite advertised measures to decrease pollution, as the one-month countdown to the Beijing Olympics approaches, the government's numbers rank Beijing as having the dirtiest air in China.
With a rating of 98, officially a "blue sky day" but only by two points, Beijing yesterday had the dirtiest air among monitored cities according to the Chinese government Web site that releases daily pollution figures.
Only four other cities, including the capitals of Sichuan, Qinghai, and Liaoning Provinces, ranked above 90 on the scale.
This does not mean that the air will not get cleaner this month. Large numbers of personal vehicles, as well as cargo trucks that do not have Beijing license plates, will be taken off the roads in efforts to reduce car pollution. Additionally, the hyperactive construction with huge numbers of buildings scheduled for completion or undergoing rushed renovation before the Games will stop completely late this month when a citywide construction freeze goes into effect.
The government is planning drastic measures. I hope for the sake of the athletes, visitors, and Beijing residents that they have clear, clean skies. But let's not kid ourselves: the pollution problem in Beijing is not going to go away any time soon. Cleaning up for two weeks may be a nice show, but the city really needs drastic measures. My favorite option: even bigger car taxes than exist now, and get that subway going.