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Beijing to Stem Pollution Without a Car-buying Ban

Beijing will not restrict the purchase of private cars to help ease traffic jams and stem pollution despite calls for the plan by residents, a senior official said on Wednesday.

And city authorities would not limit the number of license plates issued to reduce car purchases, said Wang Haiping, deputy head of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform.

Wang said cutting car purchases would be an irresponsible move while China was trying to boost domestic consumption to offset impacts from the global financial crisis.

"It's inappropriate to restrict car purchases or license plate issuing to control the total number of vehicles. We need to take into account the overall situation of boosting domestic demand and maintaining steady, rapid economic growth," he said.

"We need to maintain long-term development of the country's auto industry and citizens' expectations to improve their livelihoods after they become more wealthy," Wang said.

Instead, city authorities would rely on boosting construction of the urban mass transit system and other forms of public transport to solve Beijing's traffic issues, he said.

Beijing currently has eight subway lines with 200 kilometers of track. The city government planned to spend 90 billion yuan (US$13.2 billion) to increase the total length to 300 kilometers by 2010, Wang said.

The latest government statistics show that Beijing, a city of 16 million residents, has about 3.5 million vehicles. About 1,200 new vehicles take to the roads everyday.

Wang's remarks were in response to citizen calls to control the number of vehicles in the city to ease traffic and reduce pollution.

Some residents wanted to keep an alternating car ban imposed during the Olympics and Paralympics which took nearly 2 million cars off the roads for two months. It helped eliminate 120,000 tons of pollutants emitted by vehicles, or about 63 percent of total vehicular pollutant emissions before the ban.

Wang said a new traffic restriction, which went into effect in the Chinese capital on October 11, meant 70 percent of government vehicles, as well as all corporate and private cars, stayed off the roads for one day each five-day working week.

(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2008)

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