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'No Car Days' Set to Improve Beijing's Air Quality
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More than 200,000 members of Beijing's various driving clubs are being asked to leave their cars at home on at least one day each month in a bid to improve the air quality of the capital city.

Over 100 Beijing car clubs jointly launched the campaign on Monday calling on local drivers not to use their cars for at least one day every month. The goal of the exercise is to ease traffic congestion, reduce noise levels and improve the city's air quality.

"I love driving but I'm willing to make my contribution for more blue sky days in Beijing and for myself," said Lu Chuan, a film director and a former environmental ambassador who helped raise public awareness of China's pollution issues.

Lu said he planned to make improvements to his car to make it more environmentally friendly. He also plans to ride his bicycle and walk more often in the future.

There are more than 2.6 million vehicles in Beijing and the number is increasing by more than 1,000 a day, said Du Shaozhong, deputy head of Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. Motor vehicle emissions are the main cause of the city's air pollution, Du said. According to research carried out by the environment department, Beijing's vehicles emit 3,600 tons of pollutants each day.

Du Shaozhong, deputy head of Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau

The "no car day" campaign comes as Beijing attempts to achieve 238 "blue sky days" or days with fairly good air quality this year -- five days more than last year.

Beijing launched the program called "Defending the Blue Sky" in 1998 when the city had only 100 days of blue skies.

While the city has seen a dramatic increase in the number of "blue sky days" by moving industry away from the city and tightening up on vehicle emission standards, it still faces many challenges to improve its air quality. Most of these relate to air pollution caused by motor vehicles.

The city has removed 4,000 old buses and 30,000 cabs from service this year and replaced them with vehicles meeting new, more rigid state emission standards.

The "no car days" were first introduced by 34 French cities who jointly launched the world's first "no cars day" on September 22, 1998.

(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2006)


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