Blue skies smile on Olympic Green

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2008, 12:00am

Drought-ridden Beijing unveiled its Olympic Green yesterday - a freshly planted lakeside forest - and guaranteed there was enough water to satisfy the thirst of millions of new trees and demand from the population.

Officials claim 40 per cent of Beijing is now covered by trees, lawns and flower beds, while the expanding municipality enjoys more ecological belts such as nature reserves and cleaner rivers - all part of an Olympic pledge made seven years ago and 'delivered a year early'.

Although algae remains a concern in Qingdao , the site of the Olympic sailing events, Bi Xiaogang , deputy director of the Beijing Water Authority, said the growth would not be a problem for Olympic water venues. Measures such as pumps and filters, and the stocking of fish and aquatic plants had been taken to prevent algae during and after the Olympic Games.

Yet maintaining the new lush look remains a concern despite rainfall so far this year 40 per cent above normal, Mr Bi said. 'We hope we are blessed with more rain before the Olympics.'

If the precipitation rate continues - Beijing is enjoying an apparent end to its nine-year dry period - the water table and reservoirs will be able to meet the extra Olympic demand, and there will be no need to pipe water in from neighbouring Hebei province , a widely reported plan.

'This project to take the water reserve in Hebei to support Beijing is ready for operation,' Mr Bi said. 'We need to study ... the situation to minimise the impact on the people and agricultural production in Hebei.'

The Olympic Green lived up to its name yesterday on the first sunny, 'blue sky' day seen in two smog-riddled weeks, giving credence to official claims that the battle to rehabilitate the capital's once-ravaged environment ahead of the opening ceremony in 35 days is being won.

The remarkable ecological turnaround has been achieved through a number of radical measures, from massive tree-planting drives - 22.7 million have been planted - to the protection and conservation of water sources.

New sewage plants had been opening at the rate of one a year, Mr Bi said, and 46,000 people have been trained since 2001 in ecological protection.