What it's about:
Beijing may have turned a corner in its battle against the city's notorious smog, according to calculations by Reuters and environmental consultants who say the Chinese government deserves much of the credit for introducing tough anti-pollution measures.
The Chinese capital is set to record its biggest improvement in air quality in at least nine years, Reuters reports, with a nearly 20 percent change for the better in 2017, based on average concentration levels of hazardous breathable particles known as PM2.5.
PM2.5 levels are the most closely monitored because they account for the majority of air pollutants in China and can be harmful to the body when breathed.
Reuters' estimates show that average levels of the pollutants in the capital have fallen by about 35 percent from 2012 numbers, with nearly half the improvement in 2017.
A plan for winter months, launched in October, included switching millions of households and some industrial users to natural gas from coal for their heating and some other needs. There were also mandated cuts in steel production by up to 50 percent in some of the areas surrounding the city.
In Beijing there is room for further progress as average air quality is still significantly worse than the World Health Organization's recommendations. And while China has scored an initial victory over smog, it still has to reverse public opinion outside the country on its air quality, Reuters reports.
Why it's noteworthy:
The dramatic change across northern China is partly thanks to favourable weather conditions in the past three months but also shows the government's strong-arm tactics to fight the causes of pollution have had an impact.
China's improvement - and deterioration in some other countries - means China is now no longer among the ten worst countries for pollution in the world, according to at least one measure.
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