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Capital Drafting New Clean Air Plan
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Beijing's municipal government is mulling a plan to limit vehicle exhaust, dust from construction sites and industrial emissions to guarantee fresh air for the 2008 Olympic Games, an official said yesterday.

Du Shaozhong, spokesman for the Beijing municipal environmental protection bureau, said a team of experts is drafting the plan.

"It will take effect after the State Council approves it," Du said during an online chat sponsored by sina.com yesterday.

He did not discuss any of the plan's details, saying only that it would strictly regulate polluters and improve the environment. He added that the plan would be completed soon.

Sources familiar with the plan said it includes regulations limiting the amount of vehicles on the road and restricting their emissions. It also targets floating dust from construction sites and industrial emissions.

To support the plan, the city will very likely adopt grade IV national discharge standards for newly registered vehicles starting next year. Those standards are similar to the EU's Euro 4 standard, which limits carbon monoxide and particulate matter discharges.

If the standards take effect, it would be two years ahead of the national timeline laid out in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10).

In the public transport sector, the capital is to replace and renovate outdated buses with new ones that meet the grade III national standard by the end of the year.

Home to some 19,000 buses, Beijing would like to eventually have the world's cleanest fleet, in part by putting about 4,000 natural gas-powered buses into circulation.

Beijing will test its vehicle-control policies from August 17 to 20, when about half of the city's 3.05 million vehicles will be ordered off the road. Du said the move would help the authorities measure the effect traffic has on air quality.

"More importantly, we are studying policies to ensure blue skies for Beijing in the long-run, not just for the Olympics," Du said.

Since 1998, the capital's environmental watchdog has put forwarded some 200 measures aimed at improving air quality to ensure fresh air for the Games.

However, some experts have pointed out that loopholes remain.

Ma Zhong, an environment professor at Beijing's Renmin University of China, told China Daily that the government had doing everything in its power to crack down on local polluters.

However, there are some "remote but crucial" factors that negatively affect air quality.

"The pollution generated by people burning coal on Beijing's outskirts and in neighboring provinces is an obvious concern, however, so far little has been done to tackle the problem," Ma said.

(China Daily August 14, 2007)

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