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Beijing Strives for "Green Olympics"
"Now that the terrible odor has gone, my husband and I are finally able to enjoy the riverside's coolness and fresh air," said Zheng, an elderly woman living beside Beijing's Kunyu River.

Before the government took measures to clean it up, the river was severely polluted and stank in the summer, said Zheng.

The Kunyu River clean-up is a part of Beijing's great efforts over the past year to improve its environment and honor its pledge to host a "Green Olympics" in 2008.

According to local environmental officials, the Chinese capital has been successful in reducing air pollution and protecting drinking water sources.

Statistics from the Beijing Municipal Department of Environmental Protection show the city's air quality was at a " good" level or better for 185 days last year, nine days more than during the previous year.

The Capital Steel Group, which was the city's largest polluter for decades, has also been working hard to shake off its old image.

The headquarters of the group has now been turned into a beautiful garden with plenty of trees and roses and a lake with throngs of wild ducks. Last year the compound was opened to tourists.

Officials from the group claim the company had spent 906 million yuan (US$109 million) on 189 pollution control projects over the past few years. The group also plans to cut its annual steel output to 6 million tons from the current 8 million.

Beijing has become the largest natural gas consumer in China, with a total consumption of nearly 1.4 billion cubic meters each year. It boasts the world's largest fleet of buses using natural gas.

Last year, the Beijing municipal government mobilized local residents to plant 11.99 million trees and 2.15 million square meters of grass. As a result, the city's greenland has increased by 2,929 hectares (7,237 acres) and the per capita green area for residents is now 36.08 square meters.

"Beijing will definitely be an eco-friendly city when the Olympic Games start in 2008," said a local official.

(China Daily August 28, 2002)

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