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. Beijing announces steps to fight smog, traffic

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 28, 2008
Beijing will implement new traffic control measures aimed at clearing the Chinese capital's notoriously smoggy skies and chronic transport congestion, the city government said on Sunday.

However, the measures will not be as tough as the strict curbs on driving that were implemented for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, which were widely credited with clearing the city's skies.

From Wednesday, 30 percent of government vehicles will be taken off the roads, said a notice on the municipal government's website.

Beginning October 11, the remaining government vehicles and all private automobiles will be banned from the city's roads for one day each week, depending on their license plate number, it said.

The measures are intended to "reduce the impact of vehicle emissions on air quality and maintain basic transport order."

The stricter Olympic restrictions, which expired on September 20, had limited private motorists to driving on alternate days, removing more than a million of the city's 3.3 million vehicles from the streets each day.

Other measures included the temporary shutdown of factories and a halt to construction activity.

The measures led to unusually blue skies. Authorities said atmospheric data showed Beijing enjoyed its best air quality in a decade thanks to the measures.

Since then, however, the usual traffic gridlock -- and the smog -- have returned.

Beijing's air is among the most polluted in the world, and the problem is getting worse with about 1,000 new private automobiles bought each day by increasingly affluent city residents.

The apparent success of the Olympic steps led to calls for them to be made permanent.

Instead, the new measures will be implemented on a trial basis until next April.

Authorities also are encouraging employers to shift their workdays to begin and end later in a further bid to ease rush-hour congestion.

Previous state press reports have said Beijing was also considering plans to raise city parking fees to discourage driving.

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Chemical Equator Splits Northern From Southern Air Pollution
Washington DC (SPX) Sep 25, 2008
Scientists have detected a 'chemical equator' that divides the polluted air of the Northern Hemisphere from the largely uncontaminated atmosphere of the Southern Hemisphere. Their findings show for the first time that the chemical and meteorological boundaries between the two air masses are not necessarily the same.

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