The Chinese government announced an ambitious plan last week to curb air pollution across the nation, including setting some limits on burning coal and taking high-polluting vehicles off the roads to ensure a drop in the concentration of particulate matter in cities.
The plan represents the most concrete response yet by the Communist Party and the government to growing criticism over allowing the country’s air, soil and water to degrade to abysmal levels because of corruption and unchecked economic growth.
Chinese cities suffer from some of the worst air pollution in the world, with outdoor pollution having accounted for 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study. In January, the concentration of fine particulate matter in Beijing reached 40 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.
Environmental advocates, including some at Greenpeace East Asia, said the plan did not go far enough, while others praised it for at least acknowledging some of the basic causes of the country’s chronic air pollution. But there was wide agreement that the ultimate test would come in how it is carried out and enforced.
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