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The Chinese Got Used to Clean Air — Can They Make It Stay?


Now that the torch has been shelved for another four years and the birds' nest stadium is empty, Chinese residents are hoping to keep one benefit of the Games — increased air quality. During the Olympics, officials enacted strict measures to try to clear out the perpetually smoggy air, including limiting traffic and curbing factory production. The measures are set to stay in place until Sept. 20, and tons want them to stay longer than that.

At least 400,000 Chinese have joined online discussion groups to talk about how to keep the measures well beyond the Paralympics Games which kick off today. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed supported continuing the traffic restrictions which keep half of the vehicles off the road at any one time — better for the air and the traffic. Pollution is down by 50 percent, a 10-year record.

With ideas like keeping the special lanes created for the Olympics and turning them into mass transit lanes, is it possible that the will of the people will be heard? If the Chinese are willing to accept inconvenience for cleaner air, will economic factors persuade the government to go back to business as smoggy usual?

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