On January 6th, the Beijing EPB made a major announcement regarding the plan for monitoring and reporting PM2.5 this year. This is huge and terrific news, with most media sites characterizing the announcement as a clear and concrete result of the recent public outcry over Beijing’s air quality (for example, see BBC, Reuters, China Daily, AP, NYT, CNN, and two WSJ pieces: “Beijing Caves…” and “Beijing Bows…“).
Because this is such a big announcement, I’m going to translate the entire thing here. I wanted to do so because there are a lot of positive developments in the announcement that weren’t mentioned in most of the brief news stories, and also because I’ve noticed some minor mischaracterizations in the media about what it actually says.
The great news, only some of which was reported by the media (not by error, probably just because of space constraints) includes:
- In addition to PM2.5 reporting, hourly ozone reporting should also start by the end of the year;
- Individual, hourly data points for all stations will be reported as opposed to city-wide averages;
- The language used to describe the pollution will be changed (presumably to reflect the fact that “Blue Sky Days” here frequently aren’t, and China’s current designation of “slight pollution” is, well, not exactly slight.)
These are all enumerated in the final paragraph of the announcement, which reads like an awesomely affirmative response to a Beijing air quality information disclosure wish list.
My only minor complaint with the international coverage is that some of it implies that Beijing will begin widespread PM2.5 reporting by Spring Festival (a couple of weeks from now). Actually, the announcement only states that some “research-type” PM2.5 data will begin to be released by Spring Festival (to give credit, the BBC was the only media I read that really nailed this). Full PM2.5 reporting for the city will (hopefully) be completed by the end of the year. The announcement is filled with all sorts of caveats about how much work it will take, and about the need for the new national standards and relevant regulations to be released, etc. In other words, Beijing is very much downplaying the expectations here. Regardless, it’s still just wonderful news that has been a long time coming.
Anyway, onto the translation:
Translated by www.livefrombeijing.com
Bold added by translator
Beijing EPB responds to journalists’ questions about launching PM2.5 monitoring and improving the system for air quality information disclosure
On January 5th, a representative from the Beijing EPB Environmental Monitoring Division answered journalists’ questions on Beijing’s plans to launch PM2.5 monitoring and improve the system for air quality information disclosure.
1. Regarding the status of Beijing’s air quality monitoring
In 1984, Beijing completed the initial phase of construction of an air quality monitoring system, and began operation. At that time there were 8 automatic air quality monitoring stations, mainly distributed in the 8 districts of the city at that time. Beginning in 2000, Beijing began expanding and improving the air quality monitoring system. By the time of the Olympics, Beijing had set up 27 automatic air quality monitoring stations spread out over all the districts and counties in the entire city, and had begun automatic monitoring. According to the requirements of the national ambient air quality monitoring regulations, concentrations of SO2, NO2, PM10, and other pollutants were automatically monitored 24 hours per day. Weekly reports, daily reports, and daily forecasts of air quality started in 1998, 1999, and 2001 respectively.
2. Regarding the status of developing PM2.5 monitoring in Beijing
Currently, Beijing has not comprehensively and systematically developed regular monitoring of PM2.5. In accordance with Beijing’s atmospheric pollution prevention program, since 2006 the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center began conducting research-type monitoring of PM2.5 using an integrated observation lab. After the Olympics, we selected a few atmospheric monitoring stations to develop staged research-type PM2.5 monitoring at different times.
3. Regarding plans for monitoring and reporting PM2.5
We have already begun building the PM2.5 monitoring network, and plan to complete it by the end of the year. In accordance with the construction progress, as we complete each station, we will report that station’s monitoring information. In parallel, we will improve the overall method of reporting air quality information. First, before Spring Festival, we plan to report real-time, hourly concentration data for three pollutants – SO2, NO2, and PM10 - through the website of the environmental monitoring center. At the same time, we will report the research-type monitoring data of PM2.5 from the integrated observation lab for the public to consult. After the national standard and relevant monitoring regulations have been issued, in accordance with the regulations, we will use existing PM2.5 monitoring equipment to begin monitoring PM2.5 at 6 monitoring stations, and simultaneously report real-time data. In accordance with progress on equipment procurement and adjustment, we will gradually increase the PM2.5 monitoring stations, trying very hard to finish the entire city’s monitoring stations and issuing their real-time monitoring data by the end of the year.
4. Regarding preparation work for developing PM2.5 monitoring
There are four aspects we need to prepare in order to launch PM2.5 monitoring. One, apply for funding and procure the monitoring equipment; two, optimize the placement of the monitoring network, construct the stations, computers, and debug the system; three, upgrade the website of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center and adjust the the information system for collecting and analyzing the air quality monitoring data; four, conduct staff training.
5. Regarding improving the system for air quality information disclosure
We are preparing to improve the method of air quality information disclosure from five aspects. In accordance with the new national standard and technical regulations for monitoring: one, disclose monitoring information from all pollutants obtained by the regular automatic monitor, including PM2.5 and ozone monitoring data; two, learning from international methods, change from the past method of strongly emphasizing the disclosure of one average data point for the city to disclosing the monitoring information from each station, in order that citizens can understand the air quality situation in the area in which they live; three, change from issuing only a daily 24-hour average to issuing hourly data for each pollutant for each station; four, entrust the Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center website to add a special platform for air quality information; fifth, change the notification language for air quality information disclosure in order to be closer to citizens’ lives and serve them better.