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Beijing releases action plan for cleaner air

A new action plan released by the city of Beijing may soon make traditional coal stoves in hutongs, lanes lined with traditional courtyard houses, and fume-releasing vehicles things of the past.

The Beijing Municipal Clean Air Action Plan (2011-2015), released on Tuesday by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau (BMEPB), said the city aims to raise the proportion of annual days with "Excellent" and "Good" air conditions to 80 percent.

To this end, Beijing's six urban districts will update their remaining coal-fired boilers and stoves, refurbishing them with equipment that uses clean energy, said Zhuang Zhidong, deputy head of BMEPB.

"Urban districts will bid farewell to coal burning," said Zhuang, adding that three of the four thermal power plants in the city will also undergo clean energy renovations.

Furthermore, Beijing will implement stricter standards for vehicle exhausts, and the city plans to render obsolete 400,000 vehicles that will fail to meet the new emissions cap, said Zhuang.

Beijing, the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games, has made continuous efforts to alleviate its air pollution problems. Its sulfur dioxide concentration, an important air quality index, was down 36 percent in 2010 from 2005, according to a BMEPB document.

Still, air quality in Beijing "lags behind many local and foreign cities," due to its huge number of vehicles and growing energy consumption by a bulging population and bustling construction projects, it said.