Beijing Cleans Up Air by Moving Factories Elsewhere

by | Aug 11, 2008

beijing_olympics.jpgWhen Beijing won the privilege of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games seven years ago, the Chinese capital promised to improve its environmental issues. Among those was the promise of eliminating hundreds of polluting factories. But Washington Post reports that factories didn’t shut down– they simply moved.

The city began its cleanup efforts in 2001 by ordering hundreds of companies to leave. More than 200 are no longer operating in Beijing and another 40 are expected to be gone by the end of the year.

But Beijing’s top two polluters — Shougang Group’s Capital Iron and Steel and the Beijing Coking-Chemical Plant– didn’t stop operating. They moved to Tangshan, a region in Hebei province, about 125 miles east of Beijing.

Tangshan is now the heart of China’s steel industry, but it has paid environmental costs. The city’s deputy mayor, Xin Zhichun, acknowledges that the local government may have gone too far in allowing polluting factories.

Critics have described the trend of relocating factories out of Beijing as “internal colonization,” and question whether the country is truly serious about dealing with its pollution or just hiding it by relocating them.

China has taken extreme measures to improve its air quality in Beijing which, according to Wired, is worse than L.A. during the 1984 Olympics.

Beijing has cut the number of cars on the road by half and has spent almost $20 billion on mass transit. It has also added new renewable energy meant to provide about 20 percent of the power for Olympic venues, some of the solutions were installed by Johnson Controls, which is hoping to capitalize on China’s green leap forward. But Keith Johnson of the Wall Street Journal says China’s effort to tout the games as green can only be applied to indoor events.

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