Air-quality center opens to private observers

Updated: 2011-11-09 08:02

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - As part of a push to lay to rest public doubts about the Chinese capital's efforts to monitor air quality, seven people came to the city's environmental-monitoring center on Tuesday.

It was the start of regular trips that are to take 40 visitors in two groups to the center every Tuesday in the hope of giving them a better understanding of how air-quality data is collected and analyzed, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.

It was also the first time the city's environmental watchdog has opened its doors to individual guests since it was established in 1974, although 340 schools, companies and other organizations have taken educational tours of it since 1997.

"We want the public to see how we work and further convince the public of the sincerity of our efforts and improve our environmental awareness," said Wang Xiaoming, spokesman for the bureau.

Guests on the tours will be taken around the center to see how workers there collect, analyze and release air-quality data. The bureau said they are invited to ask experts questions during the tour.

According to Wei Qiang, an engineer at the monitoring center, 27 monitoring stations have been established throughout the city to collect data about nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, PM 10 (particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter) and other pollutants. Workers in the center's central equipment room later analyze those data and arrange to have them released to the public.

"We have also established monitoring stations that analyze the city's pollutant intensity for PM 2.5 and PM 1," said Wei. "The data will be released in the future, when the city adopts a PM 2.5 standard."

In response to public queries about the differences seen between air-quality data released by the US embassy and that released by the city, Wang said the bureau is confident that its numbers are trustworthy.

"Our monitoring machines are up to national standards and our engineers have been rigorous in collecting and analyzing these data," Wang said. "We can't judge the quality of others' data, but our results are all carefully processed."

Despite recent foggy days, Wang said the air-quality data collected in Beijing this year differs little from what was collected in 2010.

Wang Qiuxia, one of the visitors who went to the center on Tuesday, is an environmental activist at the Green Beagle, an environmental organization in the capital. She said more government transparency could help ease public doubts about Beijing's environmental monitoring and further improve the city's air quality.

"It's important to involve the public in the government's environmental monitoring," said Wang Shiqiang, 53, who took time off work to visit the monitoring center.

"The center's attitude has by and large been appreciative."

China Daily

(China Daily 11/09/2011 page3)