June 07, 2015

"Beijing hardly produces any of its own pollution anymore."

Associated Press When Dong Yingli first opened her east Beijing meat skewers restaurant six years ago, her chefs cooked the lamb, chicken hearts and assorted treats over an uncovered grill, with giant fans blowing the clouds of pungent smoke from the sidewalk into the middle of the street. By JACK CHANG

'Elsewhere in this sprawling capital city, four coal-fired power plants belched exhaust into the smoggy skies, while countless steel and cement factories in neighboring provinces emitted millions of tons of cancer-causing particles into the air.

'Now, more than a year since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang declared war on pollution across the country, Beijing's massive anti-smog fight is transforming this 20-million-person metropolis in ways both big and small. Still, as was evident on several days over the past week, when a thick gray pall filled the streets, the Chinese smog battle is far from won.

'Authorities in Beijing are shutting down coal-fired power plants within the city limits and have tried to reduce vehicle exhaust by forcing many residents to wait years to win a license plate. The capital last Monday launched the country's strictest ban on smoking indoors. Officials have even tried to convince people to cut back on the centuries-old tradition of setting off fireworks during Chinese New Year, though booms and crackles still rang out across the city in February.

'In the predominantly Muslim neighborhood where Dong runs her restaurant, inspectors have become a regular sight as they make sure vendors have installed thousands of dollars' worth of ventilation and filters. Though Dong doesn't think her business had much to do with the state of Beijing's air, she says the extra enforcement in general has made breathing easier.

'"The environment has gotten a lot better here," Dong said at a sidewalk table on a recent smoggy evening. "There used to be so much smoke here, it was hard to even see. This needed to be done."'

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