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Less cars means more blue-sky days

world Updated: Apr 10, 2009 01:54 IST
Reshma Patil

China, the world’s second largest and fast growing automobile market, despite the recession, has ordered more cars off Beijing’s roads for the sake of blue skies and clean air.

Beijing counts the number of blue-skies over the city as a measure of days with good air quality.

Last year, when the capital hosted the Olympics after years of environmental cleanup, there were 274 blue-sky days compared to 100 a decade ago when the blue-sky campaign was launched.

While New Delhi looks to China for pointers on hosting the Commonwealth Games next year, it is worth tracking how a radical traffic restriction experiment works out in Beijing this year. This week, officials announced that one out of five of Beijing’s 3.6 million private vehicles would be kept off the roads from 7 am to 8 pm on weekdays from April 11 to April 2010. The rules don’t apply to public vehicles and emergency services.

The plan is a modified continuation of previous transport experiments to improve traffic and air quality for the Beijing Olympics held last August. Almost half of Beijing’s private vehicles were not allowed on the roads on alternate days during the Olympics, according to a plan based on vehicle license plate numbers. Officials later said that pollution levels for August fell to a 10-year low. Post-Olympics, the scheme was modified to restrict 20 per cent private vehicles.

Beijing is already less smoggy and the skies indeed look blue with 73 ‘blue-sky’ days recorded from January to March. But it’s not clear whether the blue-sky days are increasing because of just the traffic restrictions or the entire gamut of clean-air measures including factory closures in effect since the run-up to the Olympics.