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Hebei Province reports more blue sky days
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All 11 major cities in Hebei Province, which surrounds the Olympic host city of Beijing, reported more "blue sky" days -- or days with fairly good air quality -- in 2007 than the previous year, latest government statistics show.

"Blue sky" days in these cities averaged 313 last year, 14 more than in 2006 and 141 more than five years ago, figures from the Hebei Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau show.

Major indices of air pollution decreased last year in the cities, said Yang Zhiming, deputy director of the bureau.

The provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, registered 289 "blue sky" days last year, two more than in 2006.

Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, registered 289 "blue sky" days last year, two more than in 2006.

The other 10 cities all saw more than 300 such days, with the highest measured at 354 in the seaside city of Qinhuangdao, 36 more than in 2006. Qinhuangdao, about 280 kilometers east of Beijing, is one of the five football venues for the August 8-24 Olympic Games.

Yang attributed the increase of "blue skies" mainly to the government's efforts to cut pollution and protect the environment in the past year, in addition to more windy and rainy days, which are favorable for diffusion of atmospheric pollutants.

Experts say under certain weather conditions, pollutants from Beijing's neighboring regions will spread to the capital, and vice versa.

The local governments of Hebei, Shandong and Shanxi provinces, Tianjin Municipality and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have drawn up measures to improve air quality during the high-profile international sports event, such as installing air-quality monitoring networks focused on heavily-polluting businesses.

In Hebei, efforts to keep pollutants out of the capital include the installation of 34 desulphurization systems in power plants, construction of 23 central heating facilities that would help cut coal use, and 56 anti-pollution projects in the province's chemical industries, said Ji Zhenhai, director of the provincial environment bureau. The projects could reduce Hebei's annual emissions of about 550,000 tons of sulphur dioxide, he said.

Meanwhile, Hebei has started to build air-quality monitoring stations in six major cities near Beijing -- Langfang, Baoding, Tangshan, Zhangjiakou, Shijiazhuang and Chengde -- to collect data on emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, carbon monoxide and other chemicals.

The city of Langfang

The city of Tangshan

(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2008)

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