Pollution control goes beyond Beijing to neighbors

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2015-08-01 20:43:29

BEIJING - Beijing and neighbor cities have already joined hands in battling pollution, and experts say the city's successful 2022 Winter Olympics bid will boost the efforts.

"The roadmap for intercity pollution control has been unveiled, and Beijing will offer the Winter Olympics athletes a better environment," said Song Qiang, an environmental expert in Beijing.

Song said Beijing's commitment to pollution control stems from public outcry and government resolve to improve the living environment, but "the Winter Olympics will come as a big force to further push environmental protection efforts."

"There will be more public and international scrutiny of Beijing, and the city will be obliged to fulfill its promise to host a clean Olympics," he added.

Since the beginning of this year, China's central government has pushed for the integration of Beijing and neighboring cities to create a new economic belt and environment-friendly zone, incorporating the surrounding Hebei province, and Tianjin, a port city to the capital's southeast.

The Jing-Jin-Ji (Jing for Beijing, Jin for Tianjin, Ji, a traditional abbreviation for Hebei) Integration Plan includes everything from information sharing, exchange of officials, environmental protection and economic development.

Experts say prior to the 2008 Olympics, Beijing moved polluting and high energy consuming plants to neighboring cities. However, pollutants have continued to drift in from neighboring cities, so the Chinese capital is now opting for a collective strategy to join hands with neighbors and spread its pollution control measures far beyond the city limits

"Beijing and its neighboring cities have much work to do if they want to achieve their goal of a better living environment. The cities must step up work in pollution control, and it's important that they do this together," said Chen Tian, chief of Beijing's Environment Protection Bureau, in an interview with Xinhua.

Chen said the "collective strategy" to curb pollution reflects the central government's resolve to transcend geographic and political boundaries. "It has a penetrating power," he said.

Under such directives, richer cities like Beijing and Tianjin must fork out money to support smaller cities in Hebei.

This year, Beijing will supply 460 million yuan ($75 million) to help curb pollution in two cities, Langfang and Baoding. Tianjin must spend 400 million yuan for Tangshan and Cangzhou, another two cities in Hebei.

The funds will be used to take down small coal-fueled boilers at steel factories and improve the energy efficiency of larger boilers.

Zhuang Zhidong, deputy of the Beijing environmental protection bureau, said the first task will be to close some iron and steel, thermal power and cement plants, which have already been deemed "excessive capacity" under the current economic situation.

Hebei alone will shut down a third of its steel production, about 60 million tonnes, by 2017.

Other measures will include promoting the use of natural gas, energy-efficient fuel and electric cars.

Beijing has vowed to cut PM2.5, airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 microns, by 20 percent by 2017, and by 45 percent in 2022. Total environmental protection spending will total $130 billion. 

"Environmental protection relies on how much the government is willing to invest its attention, manpower and money into this," said Chai Fahe, deputy director of China Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

"A roadmap is already in place, and no slacking should be allowed if we want to meet the targets," he said.

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