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Air plan not enough

China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-03 08:54

Beijing's environmental authority announced an action plan on Monday to deal with the capital's increasingly serious air pollution. According to the plan, motor vehicles will be restricted in different areas during different time periods, and a study will be conducted into levying a congestion charge to reduce traffic flows and cut down on exhaust emissions.

The plan also outlines that the capital will make efforts to control its rapidly increasing population to ease the pressure on its environment.

Given the quality of life of residents is compromised by the severe congestion that plagues the city and the heavy smog that shrouds it on winter days, such a plan is long overdue.

The plan also says that Beijing will restrict the total number of motor vehicles to no more than 6 million by the end of 2017. However, it will be difficult to achieve this without new regulations. There are already more than 5 million vehicles in the city, and despite the license plate lottery, which is meant to control the number of cars in the capital, drivers can still apply for plates in other cities and drive their cars in Beijing.

And with at least four of the country's most polluting cities in surrounding Hebei province, the action plan will not be able to keep the capital's air clean even if it is properly implemented. Studies suggest a quarter of the pollutants in the city's air comes from its surrounding areas.

Although necessary and welcome, the proposed action plan alone will definitely not be enough to clean up Beijing's air.

Instead of the city trying to be the center of everything, there needs to be a clear plan to develop it into a cultural and political center.

Too big to be comfortable and sustainable is the lesson Beijing should learn from its past development.

In addition, joint action with surrounding areas and cities is essential if Beijing is to enjoy clear skies once and for all.

So rather than a quick fix, what the capital needs is a long-term plan for its sustainable, eco-friendly development.

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