Air quality and human rights concerns aren’t the only challenges for Beijing’s (China) Olympic organizers who promised to deliver a clean environment for the 2008 summer Olympics. The latest threat is an algae bloom that is polluting the waters near the city of Qingdao.

According to Xinhua, the Chinese Propaganda News Service, over 30% of the water designated for Olympic boating competition is covered in the algae. Algae blooms now affect more than 5,000 square miles of sea. Reportedly, 100,000 tons of algae have already been taken out of the water.


As is the case in many developing countries, many coastal Chinese cities dump untreated sewage into the sea. In addition, agricultural and industrial runoff contaminated with high levels of Nitrates also find their way to the sea via rivers and tributaries.

High levels of Nitrates in the water are thought to be contributors to algae bloom, also known as red tide.

The propaganda news from QingDao has the officials stating that there is no “substantial” link between the existing water quality and pollution issues and the current algae outbreak. Instead, scientists blame the red tide on the increased rainfall and warmer waters in the Yellow Sea this season.

Algae 2

In typical Chinese fashion, they have thrown people at the problem. Reports are that as many as 20,000 people and 1,000 boats have mobilized to remove the algae from the Yellow Sea. “We will make all our efforts to finish this job,” said a propaganda official in Qingdao, who asked not to be named because of the political delicacy of the issue. “Now, forces from the entire province have become involved.” He said that seagoing vessels from two other coastal cities, Rizhao and Yantai, have been dispatched to help haul away the algae. Over the weekend, 11,000 college students volunteered for to help clean up the mess and several companies have organized teams of employees to help.

Algae 3

On another note, air quality remains a serious concern in Beijing. In early July, the city will begin removing more than 250,000 high-polluting vehicles, mostly trucks, from local roads. Later in July, the city will institute temporary restrictions to remove half of all motor vehicles from the streets. Earlier this summer, the Chinese government moved a factory (100,000 employees) from Beijing out 200km into the country. This was done in an effort to improve the air quality in the Beijing area. But air quality still remains such a large problem that there are preparations for contingency plans that could force factories across much of northern China to close temporarily if need be.

In today's politically charged climate, there's a lot more to hosting an international athletic event than you could imagine.


Officials have announced that they plan to have the Olympic competition are clear by July 10th. "We are very optimistic about the clean-up effort," Qingdao Sailing Committee spokesman Wang Haitao told Reuters on Monday. "Our plan is to have the algae completely cleaned out by July 10. Our government has ordered us to complete the clean-up by the 15th, but we expect to finish five days ahead of schedule," Wang said.

It should be noted that Wang said that the placement of 50 km (30 miles) of offshore fencing, designed to block more algae from seeping into the sailing areas was scheduled to be completed on the 7th.

Source: NYTimes

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