BEIJING, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Cai Qi, deputy Party chief and acting mayor of Beijing, has promised to take tougher measures to improve the city's air quality in 2017.
"Like many of us, I am used to checking the weather and the air quality index (AQI) of Beijing first thing in the morning. I totally understand the public's concerns and complaints over air pollution," Cai said during a three-hour meeting with press and citizens on Saturday after a spell of smog lasting more than a week in the city.
Cai said he felt rather upset because the lingering smog had brought inconvenience and harm to people's life.
He Ren, an expert representing Beijing Volunteer Service Federation,asked why there seemed to a discrepancy between official AQI readings and citizens' first-hand experience when it came to air pollution.
"Despite that the central and municipal governments have acted decisively and invested a lot to tackle air pollution in recent years, there is still a long way to go to meet the expectation of the public," he said.
Beijing waged "wars" against coal use in rural areas and high pollution vehicles last year. The average concentration of hazardous PM2.5 was 73 micrograms per cubic meter, down about 10 percent compared with 2015.
"Though we have made some progresses, air pollution in winter is still very serious. That's why the government must strengthen environmental protection and step up supervision and accountability in 2017.
"Open-air barbecues, garbage incineration, biomass burning, dust from roads -- these acts of non-compliance with regulations are actually the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement," said Cai, adding the city will organize an environmental police force to address the issue in its 16 districts.
Some citizens raised concerns about smog-related rumors and pseudoscience posts on the Internet, Cai said efforts will be made to dispel rumors and educate the public.
"I think it's a good sign that more and more people were anxious about air pollution. The more they care, the more they will participate," Cai said, adding the city will take more measures in the new year.
The city's only coal-fired power plant will be closed after the heating season. Coal consumption will be cut by 30 percent to less than 7 million tonnes in 2017.
Another 300,000 high-polluting old vehicles will be phased out in 2017. Cleaner gas and diesel will be put into use starting Feb. 15.
Additionally, 500 low-end manufacturing and polluting factories will be closed, while another 2,560 will be upgraded to meet higher pollution treatment standards.
The city will continue to build closer ties with neighboring Hebei Province and Tianjin Municipality in fighting air pollution, he said.