Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 10:54 UK

Beijing air measures 'must stay'

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Blue skies above an Olympic flower display in Beijing on 1 September 2008
Beijing is seeing its clearest skies in 10 years, officials say

Beijing residents are becoming increasingly vocal about their demands to keep emergency measures introduced for the Olympic Games.

These measures, which run until 20 September, include keeping drivers off the roads, closing polluting factories and shutting down rubbish dumps.

The result has been a less polluted city with blue skies and clearer roads.

More than 400,000 residents have joined online discussion groups to talk about retaining the measures, reports say.

Clearer roads

These temporary rules were only supposed to last until the end of the Paralympics, which begin on Saturday.

They were introduced to help China fulfil its commitment to provide the best possible environment for the Olympics and Paralympics.

Citizens' expectations have already been driven up by the Olympics
Tan Zhimin,
local official

But many residents like them, and some want them to continue.

A survey conducted by the Beijing News found that nearly 70% of respondents supported continuing the traffic restrictions.

These have kept up to half the city's vehicles off the roads, leaving the streets noticeably less congested.

Even drivers seem impressed with the restrictions - nearly half told the daily that they wanted the traffic rules made permanent.

The writer of a commentary piece in the Beijing News suggested lanes reserved for Olympic vehicles should be turned into bus lanes.

"This will make the public transport situation much better and lead to more people with cars joining the ranks of public transport users," the article said.

'Higher expectations'

It is not just the roads that have benefited from the temporary rules. The skies above Beijing have been unusually clear and blue.

Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau announced last month that it had fulfilled its Olympic pledges, but on Monday it gave more details.

It said air pollution during the Olympics was down by 50% - a 10-year record.

Not only do Beijing residents like their cleaner city, they also appear more willing to fight to keep it that way.

There are reports that Beijing residents protested outside a rubbish incineration plant on Saturday.

Residents, who claim the site gives off noxious fumes, staged their demonstration when the site opened again after being closed during the Olympics.

The authorities acknowledge that many Beijing residents will not be content if the city's improvements are not maintained.

"Citizens' expectations have already been driven up by the Olympics," Tan Zhimin, one city official, told China's state-run news agency Xinhua.

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