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Beijing has vowed to eliminate most coal-fired boilers in the city center by the end of 2015 to reduce pollution from fine particulate matter, especially during the heating season.
After reducing coal use by 700,000 metric tons last year, the capital plans to cut another 1.4 million tons this year and use no more than 21.5 million tons, according to the 2013 coal consumption reduction plan released by the city's Environmental Protection Bureau and Commission of Development and Reform.
Workers with the Beijing District Heating Group destroy two coal delivery channels with cranes on April 25, marking the beginning of the transformation of energy from coal to gas in the last coal-burning power plant in Beijing. CHENG NING / FOR CHINA DAILY
The capital used 26.35 million tons of coal in 2010, the environmental bureau said.
Beijing still has a large number of coal-fired central heating boilers that give off large amounts of coal dust, and noise during the heating season.
Richard Saint Cyr, a family medicine doctor at United Family Health in Beijing, said he has noticed an uptick in discussions about the worsening air quality with many patients since winter.
He said that air pollution in the past winter was unusually serious and he had never witnessed such collective anxiety in Beijing.
Fine particulate matter poses a serious threat to people's hearts and lungs, he said.
Shang Wenchao, 28, a lifelong Beijing resident, said he used to clean his nostrils before going to sleep in winter because the air he breathed was filled with soot from burning coal.
"You have to wear a mask every day while outdoors or you would be eating coal," he said.
Shang said the situation is much better now, but the pollution is still worse in the winter because of the coal-fired boilers.
In response, the city's Environmental Protection Bureau is taking action has said it will replace coal-fired boilers within the Fourth Ring Road with clean energy by the end of 2015.
All coal-fired boilers with a capacity of generating 20 tons of steam per hour and above will be replaced with clean energy by the end of 2015, it said.
The last five coal-fired boilers at Shougang Machinery Co's heavy machinery branch in the Shijingshan district were shut down in March, making Shijingshan the third city district without coal-powered heating, after Xicheng district and Dongcheng district.