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Hebei aims to keep pollutants off Beijing during Olympics
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North China's Hebei Province has pledged about 21 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion) to cut pollutants emissions and build environment monitoring stations around Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics.


The efforts to keep pollutants out of the capital include the installation of 34 desulphurization systems in power plants, construction of 23 central heating facilities in a bid to reduce the use of coal, and 56 pollutant-curbing projects in the province's chemical industries, said Ji Zhenhai, director of the provincial environment protection bureau.


The projects could reduce the annual emission of about 550,000 tons of sulphur dioxide when they are completed, he said.


Meanwhile, Hebei has started to build air quality monitoring outposts in six major cities near Beijing, including provincial capital Shijiazhuang, to collect data on emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen monoxide, carbon monoxide and other chemical particles.


"We will take necessary action if the pollution indices fail to meet required standards," Ji said.


"Environmental quality in Hebei is important to that in neighboring Beijing, and the onus is also on us to ensure a clean Olympics," he added.


Hebei has already lent a big hand to the host city of the next Olympics by providing a new plant site for the Shougang steel company, a major air polluter in Beijing.


The Olympics outlook, along with risks posed by a degraded environment from decades of breakneck growth, has spurred the province to improve the environment.


By the end of last year, Hebei had in place more than 500 water and air quality monitoring stations. The provincial government opened two phone hotlines for the public to report environment-damaging activities.


Provincial environment protection bureau figures show pollution has decreased by about 24 percent since the 10th five-year plan period (2001-2006), and an increase the number of "blue sky" days.


In order to ensure a clean environment for next year's Olympics, Beijing has been taking measures, including trial traffic bans, increased tree planting and ordering its power plants to switch from coal to gas.


Zhang Lijun, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, has also called for regional cooperation from Beijing's neighbors including Hebei, Shanxi, Tianjin and Inner Mongolia to tackle air pollution problem and contribute to a clean Olympics.


(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2007)

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