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Beijing gasps for a breath of fresh air
By Yuan Wu (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-17 10:38

Winter has arrived and Beijing's central heating was duly fired up on Monday, bringing with it further concerns about pollution in the capital city.

At the beginning of the year, the Beijing municipal government set a target to see at least 227 clear days out of 365, so that 62 per cent of the year should be blue sky - Grade 2 or better on the air pollution index.

By October 31, the city had been blessed with 187 days, 40 days short. It is unlikely that the target will now be met, with coal-fired boilers every day belching black smoke from chimneys to keep homes warm.

The best year so far has been 2002, in which 35 clear days were recorded in November and December.

Some officials have suggested that heavy industrial plants around Beijing's western areas, especially the Shougang Group, one of China's leading steel mills, should be moved out of the capital.

This might certainly help some of the capital's pollution problems. But it's hardly a simple task to move an industrial park, and what about the effects on the area it is moved to?

The municipal government should instead be looking at how to control smoke emissions from chimneys .

Coal boilers should be replaced with ones that use clean fuel to minimize emissions of sulphur dioxide, a major air polluter. And where the boilers themselves are not replaced, only coal with limited sulphur dioxide and little ash should be burned.

Advanced technology needs to be developed for a complete fuel combustion.

The capital's bad air quality can be blamed on many factors, including human activities and even the geographical coincidence of being surrounded by hills.

The target hasn't been hit, but the local government should not be lambasted as it has certainly been trying.

But failure at least reminds both the government and residents that before they can breathe in truly fresh air, an awful lot must be done.

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