Acting mayor of Beijing vows to tackle haze
The acting mayor of Beijing is promising a tougher response to deal with the city's air quality issues this year.
The pledge comes amid lingering smog which has been engulfing the Chinese capital off-and-on for the past few weeks.
Acting Beijing Mayor Cai Qi admits the current bout of air pollution throughout the capital is a major concern.
He says like most people in the city, he is consistently checking the air quality index, and says public concern about the problem is both understandable and warranted.
"Society pays a lot of attention to the haze. We all have to work, study, and live in Beijing, and I can completely understand if people have concerns, or anxiety, or even some complaints about the situation. I too feel very anxious about the continuous haze, as its impacting people's lives."
A major campaign to try to keep Beijing's air clean was launched last year.
The "war" against coal in rural areas, as well as high pollution vehicles, has had an effect, with the average daily level of PM2.5 coming in at 73 micrograms per cubic meter last year, down about 10 percent compared with 2015.
Despite the year-on-year reduction, authorities admit the pollution control measures are still lagging behind most people's expectations.
Cai Qi has also been grilled about a perceived discrepancy between the official AQI readings and what people are experiencing on a daily basis.
The acting Mayor admits their forecasting isn't always accurate.
"Right now we're having trouble enforcing the regulations, and are also running into technical issues which sometimes lead to miscalculations of both the duration and density of air pollution, especially during sudden outbreaks of smog. We are struggling somewhat in putting out accurate alerts, as well as how we are coping with the pollution."
Emissions from winter heating, as well as a lack of controls of heavy-duty diesel vehicles on the road, and a lack of oversight of heavy-polluting factories are creating challenges for air pollution control.
Cai Qi says plans are set to be implemented this year to try to fix this.
This will include pulling some 300-thousand high-polluting motor vehicles off the roads.
The last remaining coal-fired power plant in Beijing is set to be shut down once the winter heating season comes to an end in mid-March.
On top of that, hundreds of low-end manufacturing and polluting factories will also be closed, while the rest will be upgraded to meet higher pollution treatment standards.
Cai Qi says the main focus will be on eliminating coal from the air in Beijing.
"Through the three measures mentioned, we plan to cut coal consumption by 30 percent year on year, to less than seven million tons."
Coal-fired power plants in Beijing, once a staple of the capital's skyline, have been systematically moved out of the city over the past few years.
Similar moves with high-polluting factories are due to continue as the government implements its plan to integrate the Beijing-Hebei-Tianjin region into China's next mega-metropolis.