Beijing's top environment official described the city's air quality as 'relatively poor' on Tuesday as statistics emerged revealing the level of major air pollutants in the city had soared by 30 per cent this year.
Beijing environmental bureau chief Chen Tian said that both nitrogen dioxide and the inhalable particulate matter, PM10, rose by nearly 30 per cent in first three month of 2013 compared with same time last year, The Beijing News reported  on Wednesday.
These two compounds - along with sulphur dioxide - make up the three major pollutants closely monitored by officials. Chen revealed that sulphur dioxide levels had dropped slightly, the report said.
He made the remarks on Tuesday on radio after listeners asked why smog had become so bad in Beijing. Public concern about air pollution remains high in the capital after it was frequently shrouded in thick smog earlier this year.
In a document dubbed “Cleaning Air Operation Plan 2013” made public last month, Beijing authorities vowed to lower major air pollutants by 2 per cent this year. To reach this goal, the city announced 52 measures including phasing out about 180,000 vehicles with high emission levels and growing more than 58,000 acres of forest around Beijing.
Chen admitted climate and geological factors had contributed to the “relatively poor air quality”. But he said a major problem was also soaring vehicle emissions and high daily emissions in urban areas.
The government has ordered coal power stations in Beijing to gradually shut down and to use better quality coal and natural gas. Chen said that in the long-term Beijing aimed to become a coal-free city.
Earlier figures from a study publicised on Sunday in Beijing show outdoor air pollution caused 1.2 million deaths in China in 2010. This was 40 per cent of the total number of these deaths globally.