Beijing’s new airport likely to add to its severe air pollution

Local governments in Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin hope a new airport project will boost economic growth, but experts fear it could undermine the capital’s effort to rein in air pollution

Beijing’s new airport project will put pressure on the capital’s air pollution control efforts, experts fear.

The airport will be located in the southern Daxing District – about 50 kilometres from Tiananmen Square – and will have four runways. It is expected to be finished in 2018, and have an annual capacity of 72 million passengers by 2025.

Wu Dui, an air pollution control expert at Jinan University, told the Beijing News that the environmental impacts of the new airport project were "relatively complex" and that the location would have adverse impacts on Beijing’s atmospheric environment.

According to Wu, who has participated in preliminary studies of the project, the location of the new airport is at the upwind area of downtown Beijing in winter and on the “pollutant conveyor belt” between mid-south Hebei and Beijing, which brings airborne pollutants from the industrial province to the capital.

Peng Yingdeng, an official from the environment ministry, agreed that the new airport project would "certainly put pressure on Beijing’s environmental quality". New towns are to be built around the airport and the new populations of these new towns may also increase emissions in the region.

Peng said that clean energy and rail transit should be elements of the airport’s infrastructure.

The concerns over the new airport’s impact of the capital’s environment follow recent criticism on the Beijing government’s failure to initiate a timely smog emergency response. Beijing’s Air Quality Index (which is derived from measuring 6 different kinds of atmospheric pollutants, including PM2.5) reached hazardous levels  for three consecutive days in mid-February.