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Beijing has 'more room' for cars

By Meng Jing and Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-27 07:59

Beijing has 'more room' for cars

A traffic jam on the North Second Ring Road at 4:00 pm yesterday in Beijing. [China Daily]

Environmental officials said yesterday the city's pollution should not worsen when the car population exceeds four million next month.

The Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau said at a press conference yesterday the positive prediction referred to the fact that city has removed more than half of its 200,000 high-polluting vehicles from streets this year.

"This contributes to a reduction of 25 percent of the total car emissions in Beijing," Li Kunsheng, director of the vehicle emission management division of the bureau, told METRO yesterday.

The bureau said the government has spent 290 million yuan by providing cash relief to owners of the 100,181 vehicles phased out.

While residents continue to worry that more pollution will arise from the fast growth of traffic, currently growing at a rate of 2,100 cars per day, Li said the slashed emissions would more than compensate.

"This leaves more room for Beijing's roaring car population," he told reporters yesterday.

Beijing's car population reached 3.96 million last week, putting out around 1 million tons of pollutants annually. It is predicted that it will have taken only 28 months for the number of cars to increase from 3 million to 4 million.

"The total number of high-polluting cars emits more than 200 tons of pollutants each day. The emissions from one of these cars roughly equals 20 conventional cars," said He Kebin, a professor with the department of environmental science and engineering at Tsinghua University.

Beijing has been using cleaner fuel that meets the Euro IV standard since 2008 to cut emissions. The city has also been running a no-car day campaign since April, which is based on license plates.

The Beijing municipal commission of development and reform also announced new plans to add 500 electric taxis by the end of next year.

Though the number is less than 1 percent of the city's total taxi population, the city commission said the technology will be applied to 20,000 buses and cleaning vehicles in coming years.

Beijing's sky was covered by a layer of haze yesterday. Twenty-five out of 28 of the city's air pollution monitoring stations reported the air as "unhealthy".

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Air quality statistics from the US Embassy in Beijing, using a stricter air pollution index calculating, also gave a "very unhealthy" warning.

Environmentalists and local Beijingers yesterday voiced concerns over worsening pollution following the growing car population that shows no sign of stopping.

Zhang Jianyu, China program head of the US-based Environmental Defense Fund, told METRO he has doubts whether authorities will succeed in cutting the number of new cars hitting the roads every day.

"The government's no-car day ban has resulted in some resistance from car owners who then buy more cars," Zhang said, adding that the excessive new cars on the roads may jeopardize the emission campaign.

Lu Jiang, a 35-year-old SUV driver, yesterday said after parking his 400,000 yuan vehicle: "I don't know much about the effect of cleaner fuel, but I do see more cars on the roads each day."

"As a car owner, I can't stop the cars from growing. All I can do is to turn away from clogged weekend roads and take the subway with my family," he said.