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It’s back to gray for Beijing’s skies

After a week of blue skies, a more familiar gray haze greeted Beijing commuters yesterday.

Some people, like Chen Shan, welcomed the return of the smog, as it was a sign the city was back to “normal.”

“The more cloudy the sky, the more we should remember its blue times,” Chen wrote on Weibo, the Twitter-like website, alongside two photos of the view from his office, one with a clear blue sky, and the other gloomily hazy and gray.

The sky was a hot topic across social media. Pictures of landmarks in Beijing framed by a clear blue sky and white clouds went viral.

According to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, the city’s average density of PM2.5, harmful particles that are small enough to enter the bloodstream, dropped to a record low of 5 micrograms per square meter on Friday, a decrease of 19 percent from the same day last year.

Chen Tian, head of the bureau, attributed the improved air quality to a reduction of coal burning and less construction.

Beijing’s air quality has improved in the past four months due to air pollution control efforts and favorable weather conditions, he said.

The number of severe pollution days has dropped by 42 percent year on year, he claimed.

Businessman Zhang Qian said he limits the time he spends outside when he is in Beijing. But last weekend, he said he went for a walk.

“I never expected such excellent weather in Beijing and I didn’t want to waste it by staying in the hotel,” he said.

“If the sky in Beijing stays blue like this, I will enjoy my job even more.”

Measures to control pollution prior to and during big political events, such as the parliamentary sessions in March and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings last November, were successful.

Chinese people even coined the phrase “APEC Blue” to describe the city’s clear skies.

The Beijing government vowed to bring back APEC Blue by scaling up air quality control. A ban on outdoor barbecues is its latest move.

Last year, Beijing reduced its coal consumption by 2.8 million tons. In March, two coal-fired power plants were shut down, and 200,000 vehicles and more than 300 polluting factories will be phased out this year.

Air pollution has been identified as a major obstacle to Beijing’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

The capital issued a five-year plan on its environment, vowing to clean its air by cutting PM 2.5 density by 20 percent by 2017, with an investment of US$130 billion.

“We are confident we can have fresh air in Beijing, not only by improving the air quality, but by paving a new, healthier and greener path for the city and the surrounding region’s development for years to come,” said Mayor Wang Anshun.


 

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