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Promise of Clean Air During Olympics
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Bai Keming, Party secretary of Hebei Province, has promised that every effort will be made to keep the areas surrounding Beijing pollution-free during next year's Olympics.


"During the 2008 Olympic Games, blue skies are a requirement not only for Beijing, but also for the places around it," Bai said yesterday in an exclusive interview with China Daily at the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress.


He said that to ensure a "clean" Olympics, some temporary measures will have to be introduced, such as halting the production of those companies that are known to cause pollution.


"Right now, there is no specific plan, but to ensure the smooth running of the Olympics some sacrifices have to be made," Bai said.


One measure that has already been taken is the relocation of national steel manufacturer Beijing Shougang Group, which is currently in the process of moving its operations from the capital to the tiny island of Caofeidian, some 80 kilometers south of Tangshan in Hebei Province.


Responding to concerns that the move was simply shifting the pollution problem, Bai said the new company is a joint venture with a local steel firm and that it would operate to high environmental protection standards.


"The new company is based on the concept of a modern circular economy," said Bai.


"And it will create much less pollution than it did in Beijing."


He said the operations of the new company would comply with strict international standards, which require such measures as the recycling of slag, the use of desalinated water in furnaces and the re-use of emitted gases for steel rolling.


"Even if we were not hosting the Olympics, we would still carry out these policies to save energy and reduce pollution for the long-term benefit and development of Hebei," Bai said.


Although Hebei failed to reach its target of cutting energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by about 4 percent last year, it did manage to reduce the discharge of major pollutants by almost 2 percent.


"We have already phased out several smaller companies that were generating pollution and have gathered together a number of others so that we can apply tighter controls," Bai said. "We are determined to continue with our environmental protection efforts."


(China Daily March 13, 2007)

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