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Forestry Watchdog Vows 'Green Olympics'

China will intensify afforestation efforts in and around Beijing to create a better environment for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, said a forestry official Tuesday.

"The Chinese government will continue to control sandstorms that are detrimental to the ecological environment in Beijing and Tianjin and is ready to spend more on key areas and major projects," said Liu Tuo, an official in charge of sand control with the State Forestry Administration at a press conference in Beijing.

He said China is considering more spending on sand control in the northwestern region, a major source of sandstorms hitting Beijing and Tianjin.

"It's the solemn commitment of the Chinese government to host a 'Green Olympics' in 2008," Liu told some 80 Chinese and foreign journalists. "'Green' stands for good ecological environment, and peace and stability. We're confident the Chinese government will live up to its commitment."

The State Forestry Administration launched an ambitious sand control project in 2001 to tackle sandstorms that had for long been plaguing Beijing's environment.

A forestry report says that by the end of 2004, the project had covered at least 11 million hectares of land. The coverage of forests and grass had increased by an average 30 percent compared with 2000 and a network of forest shelters had been built in sand-prone areas in Hebei and Shanxi provinces and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, it says.  

The sand control project has improved the air quality in Beijing. The monitoring network of Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau found a significant drop in major pollutants in the city proper in 2004, and nearly 227 days of the year had good weather, compared with 100 days in 1998.

The Beijing municipal government said it has invested heavily to improve its environment since it won the right to host the 2008 Olympics. Last year 14.1 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion) was spent on pollution control projects, accounting for 3.3 percent of the city's total GDP for that year.

Meteorologists have confirmed three routes for sandstorms to enter Beijing, from Mongolia in the north, Inner Mongolia in the northwest and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the Loess Plateau in the west.

(Xinhua News AgencyJune 14, 2005)

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