BEIJING, Oct 8 (Reuters) A northern Chinese province bordering Beijing has pledged to spend 21 billion yuan on cutting back emissions and monitoring air quality ahead of the Olympic Games next year.
Hebei province will spend the cash on equipment to filter acid-rain causing sulphur dioxide from power plant emissions, building central heating systems that save on coal, and cleaning up chemical plants, Xinhua agency reported.
''Environmental quality in Hebei is important to that in neighbouring Beijing, and the onus is also on us to ensure a clean Olympics,'' the report quoted Ji Zhenhai, director of the provincial environmental protection bureau, as saying.
The province is also building air quality monitoring stations in six cities near Beijing.
The Chinese capital, which is often shrouded in a grey smog, is keen to ensure blue skies and clean air for the Games next August.
It plans to limit the number of cars on the roads and shut polluting factories during the Olympics.
The Shougang Iron and Steel group, which was once the city's worst polluter, is also moving to Hebei to help clean up Beijing's air, and will have shuttered most of its facilities in the city by 2008.
Olympics chief Jacques Rogge has said some endurance events might have to be postponed if air quality is not up to scratch.
China's leaders are pushing for greener growth, but the country's weak environmental watchdog often struggles to enforce laws. It said today it had penalised five environmental impact assessment agencies -- including a ministry department -- for poor quality work and suspended an engineer.
REUTERS SSC RK2113