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Thursday, May 7, 2015, 10:20

Olympics: Beijing steps up air quality control

By Xinhua

Olympics: Beijing steps up air quality control
This picture taken on Feb 23, 2014 shows a man wearing a mask using his mobile phone on haze-covered Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (PHOTO / AFP)

BEIJING - China has scaled up air quality control in Beijing to make sure the capital's air pollution is much improved by the time of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

BBQ is the latest target as Beijing announced on Wednesday to ban restaurants from operating outdoor barbecues, which authorities say are a major contributor to smog, in selected suburban areas.

China is going all out to bring "Olympic Blue" to Beijing.

'Olympic Blue', derived from the coined phrase 'APEC Blue', refers to fresh air and clear days that may come with the Olympics.

During last November's APEC meeting, host Beijing imposed strict pollution controls which led to a big drop in pollutants in the air. Thus, Beijing netizens coined a phrase 'APEC Blue' to describe the clear blue sky.

Air pollution, which had haunted the city for quite a long time, is believed to be one of the major problems that could hurt Beijing's chance to host the 2022 Games.

The first quarter of the year has witnessed Beijing's average PM2.5 (airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter) density drop significantly, thanks to the capital's continuous air pollution control efforts and favorable weather conditions during this period.

The average density of PM2.5 dropped by 19 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to Beijing's environmental protection bureau.

The average densities of PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide also dropped by 8.8 percent, 42.9 percent and 11.4 percent respectively in Beijing.

Chen Tian, head of the Beijing environmental protection bureau, attributed the remarkable air quality improvement to the reduction of coal burning, a drop in construction activities and good air conditions to disperse pollutants.

Last year, Beijing realized a record high of 2.8 million-tonne cut in coal use. In March, two sets of coal-burning power generation facilities of two plants were shut down in Beijing.

The capital will continue to improve its energy structure to keep coal consumption under 15 million tonnes, phase out another 200,000 vehicles and close more than 300 polluting factories this year.

Beijing has 5.5 million registered vehicles, which discharge 700,000 tonnes of pollutants a year.

"We will accelerate promotion of new energy cars to control emissions of vehicles," said Li Kunsheng, an official of the bureau.

Policies about the fees over traffic jamming or fuel burning and dust at construction sites will be adopted, according to Zhang Gong, vice mayor of Beijing.

Meanwhile, the air quality in nearby Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province also improved in the first quarter.

The PM2.5 density dropped 15 percent in Tianjin and 25 percent in Hebei Province respectively year-on-year in the first quarter.

Beijing and the neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province have been working together to fight air pollution in recent years. The region has been ordered by the central government to cut PM2.5 from 2012 levels by 25 percent by 2017.

The International Olympic Committee will vote on Beijing's bid race against Almaty, Kazakhstan, on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur.

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