Pollutant levels drop for first time in years
The mainland has declared an initial victory in curbing emissions of major pollutants and set ambitious pollution control targets to ensure the success of the Olympics.
It is the first time in years that the mainland has announced decreases in acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide emissions and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a measure of water pollution, according to State Environmental Protection Administration director Zhou Shengxian .
'We will guarantee the capital's air quality during the Olympic Games by ensuring we meet targets this year of cutting sulfur dioxide and COD by 6 and 5 per cent respectively from 2005,' Mr Zhou was quoted by Xinhua as saying yesterday.
His pledges came amid mounting international concerns about Beijing's ability to tackle widespread pollution across the country and improve the capital's choking air quality to meet its own commitments for a 'green' Olympics.
The announcement by Mr Zhou, at a national meeting of environmental officials, also came ahead of the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in March, which will see a sweeping reshuffle of Premier Wen Jiabao's cabinet.
The government has been keen to see a turning point in its battle against pollution, which has suffered several setbacks in the past two years.
Despite Mr Wen's pledges during the NPC session two years ago for a 10 per cent reduction in both pollutants by 2010, Beijing missed the annual targets in 2006.
The Xinhua report did not give further details of Beijing's claims of success last year.
The total output of sulfur dioxide reached 25.89 million tonnes in 2006, up 1.5 per cent on the previous year.
Mr Zhou also announced other measures to improve the country's environment, including controlling energy-intensive and polluting industries, cracking down on industrial polluters and ensuring the safety of drinking water.