Beijing to build "green belt"

Vehicles travel amidst heavy smog in Beijing, November 7, 2007. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing will gird its concrete city limits with a kilometer-wide “green belt” to allow its densely packed residents space for rest and recreation, local media reported on Friday.

Authorities had reserved a 1 km (half-mile) swathe of land between two ringed highways on the capital’s fringe purely for parkland, the Beijing News said, in the face of soaring land values and rampant property development.

“No residential or industrial projects will be permitted, only ‘green’ landscapes for sight-seeing and recreation,” the paper said.

The teeming city of 17 million people has been eager to burnish its green credentials ahead of the Olympics, and has spent billions of yuan dismantling high-polluting industries and replacing decrepit housing with landscaped gardens.

But patches of grass for public enjoyment still remain a rarity in Beijing, where most of the handful of inner city parks charged gate fees until recently.

The 163-sq-km green belt would be completed by 2010, the paper said. Authorities had already carved out half the land near Olympic venues and the airport, and planted nearly 20 million trees.