Published: Monday 15 February 1999

Going hammer and tongs: China< (Credit: Chien-Min Chung /AP)A solution to Beijing's air pollution problems will require cooperation from the whole society, as well as the government, said a local environmental official. In an interview with China Daily, Yu Xiaoxuan, deputy director of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said that environmental awareness has spread among the government officials and the public. But he added that there are still some problems in implementing measures to combat serious air pollution.

Yu said every work unit with large boilers should use low-sulphur coal, instead of inferior grade, high-polluting fuel, to cut airborne particulate matter. Sulphur dioxide, a harmful gas, can cause diseases in human respiratory systems and result in erosive acid rain. Over 90 per cent of the sulphur dioxide in the air during winter comes from high-sulphur coal, he said.

The work units in the city should try to set an example. They should not use high-sulphur coal in its boilers, get rid of old cars, and those that do not meet standards in exhaust emissions. So far, a total of 1.3 million tonnes of low-sulphur, high-quality coal were ordered by work units in Beijing.

Yu said that the current air pollution problems have not happened overnight. In the 1950s, a group of light and heavy industries were developed in the city. In the western parts of Beijing, iron and steel plants produced considerable amounts of pollutants. Yu added that in the past decade, annual coal consumption increased by 32 per cent and the number of automobiles has doubled.

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