January 25, 2010 / 6:00 AM / 8 years ago

Beijing mayor says city faces serious pollution

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing’s mayor Guo Jinlong said on Monday that the Chinese capital faces an “extremely serious” pollution problem, unveiling a target for “blue sky days” below the number achieved for all of 2009.

Beijing is frequently enveloped in foul-smelling smog, the result of a private car boom on the back of breakneck economic growth, the rapid development of industry around the city, and a reliance on coal power stations for electricity.

Guo promised the city of 17 million would give greater priority to public transport by building bus lanes and new subway lines as well as raising the proportion of green energy resources used and removing high-emission vehicles from the road.

“The problems between population, resources and the environment are extremely serious,” Guo told the opening session of Beijing’s largely rubber stamp parliament, held at a conference center in a remote northern suburb.

He said the city will aim to have 73 percent of the days this year with air quality judged excellent or fairly good, known as “blue sky days.” That works out at about 266 days, as opposed to 285 for 2009.

“We will control the total quantity of pollutants generated and undertake trial reforms in the trade of pollution discharge rights,” Guo added, without elaborating.

“We will deepen the development strategy of giving priority for public transportation, and build a green commuting system that gives priority to rail transit and emphasizes surface public transportation,” he said.

Beijing’s notoriously poor air quality was put in the global spotlight ahead of the city’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics, leading the government to launch a major clean-up campaign, including shutting down many dirty factories.

But more than a year after the Games, Beijing is still periodically shrouded by smog, endangering the health of residents and making the city a less attractive place for foreign executives and their families.

Guo told the more than 700 delegates that he hoped to turn Beijing into a “global city” and would “vigorously entice multinational corporations to set up their regional headquarters in Beijing.”

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jerry Norton

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