UNEP Reports Beijing Met Olympic Water, Waste Goals

Beijing achieved and largely exceeded the drinking water and waste-management goals it set as part of its bid for last summer’s Olympics, according to a new report.

“Beijing prepared impressively in these areas for the Olympic games. In the end, the city improved its drinking water, as well as its waste-disposal and recycling systems,” said Cy Jones, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute (WRI) and lead author of two chapters within the report, which was produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with several partners.

WRI’s research -- covering the water and waste chapters -- found that the city’s drinking water treatment plants met China’s new water quality standards and guidelines set by the World Health Organization. Beijing also expanded its wastewater collection and treatment systems, enabling the city to treat 92 percent of its wastewater during the games.

“Though many more actions are needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of its water supply, Beijing’s aggressive efforts before the Olympics show that it’s possible for cities to minimize water consumption, maximize the use of available rainwater and treated wastewater, and protect critical surface-water resources,” Jones added. “Beijing’s efforts and our recommendations can act as a guide for future Olympic host cities.”

In addition to improving water quality, Beijing surpassed its goal of sorting 50 percent and recycling 30 percent of all solid waste produced within the city by 2008. Upgrades to the city’s waste disposal system allowed 52 percent of waste to be sorted and 35 percent to be recycled by 2007.

Further, Beijing greatly expanded its ability to properly dispose of hazardous waste in specially designated landfills. In 2001, four plants could properly dispose of 2,000 tons of hazardous waste per day combined. In 2008, the city increased that capacity to 30,000 tons and recycled an additional 10,000 tons. “A big step-forward has been made by the Beijing municipality in terms of waste disposal and recycling,” said Hanqian Zhang, a WRI researcher and report co-author based in Beijing. “Olympic bid commitments were achieved through effective infrastructure investment, wise urban planning, technology research, and education programs.”

The report, Independent Environmental Assessment: Beijing 2008 Olympics Games, was produced by UNEP. Data was provided by the Beijing Municipal Government, the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, and the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee. WRI provided expertise and analysis on both the water quality and solid waste chapters.

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