BEIJING (AFP) — China on Thursday unveiled a string of emergency measures it was prepared to use in its battle to tame Beijing's stubborn smog ahead of the Olympics, as the city was again shrouded in haze.
Chinese authorities may close more factories, further reduce the number of cars on the road in the city and neighbouring areas, and stop all construction, the ministry of environmental protection said on its website.
"When there are extremely unfavourable weather conditions, there will be some emergency measures," the statement said.
Beijing has already taken drastic steps to reduce pollution, amid concerns expressed from as high up as International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge that the poor air quality could be detrimental to performance and health.
In the most dramatic anti-pollution measure, one million of the city's 3.3 million cars were taken off the roads from July 20, and more than 100 heavily polluting factories and building sites were closed down.
But after two days of marked improvement in the air and with little more than a week to go before the Games start, Beijing was once again blighted by a thick haze on Thursday, although foggy weather also played a part.
The emergency measures announced by the environment ministry would see around 460,000 more cars removed from Beijing's roads, according to the plans that were publicised widely in the state-run press on Thursday.
Another 222 factories would also be shut down in Beijing, neighbouring Hebei province and the nearby city of Tianjin.
Measures restricting traffic would also be extended to Tianjin and major cities in Hebei, the ministry said.
Further, there would be a ban on all construction activity, according to the statement.
Zhang Junfeng, a environmental campaigner based in Beijing, said any reductions in polluting activities in surrounding areas could help clear the haze.
"These measures will have an effect to some extent," he told AFP.
"Because the air circulates towards Beijing from cities around Beijing... these measures may reduce the air pollution during the Olympics."
Rogge warned last year that poor air quality during the Games could result in the suspension of some events, particularly endurance races such as the marathon.
The pollution contributed to world marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie pulling out of the event in Beijing, and instead focusing on the 10,000m.
However Australian team doctor Peter Baquie said Thursday he was not concerned about the pollution.
"It hasn't been an issue for our athletes. The critical thing is we have not had any lower respiratory symptoms," he told reporters.
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