Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Monday, 31 December 2007

Beijing 'meets pollution target'

Cyclists on a smog-filled Beijing street in October 2007
The Chinese capital is often shrouded in thick smog

Officials in China's capital Beijing say clear skies on the last day of the year mean that Beijing has surpassed an air pollution target for 2007.

On Monday the city registered its 246th "blue sky day", beating by one its goal for the year.

The news is a boost to officials, who face serious and ongoing concern over air pollution levels in the metropolis.

International officials have voiced fears that poor air quality may affect athletes at the summer's Olympic Games.

Earlier this year, Olympic chief Jacques Rogge said some events could be rescheduled if the air quality was not good enough.

Since then, Chinese officials have been working to tackle the pollution with measures such as experimental no-car days.


Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection, told Xinhua news agency he was relieved.

"We anticipated the last 'blue sky day' more than 10 days ago, but lingering fog and sandstorms frustrated us in the past week," he said.

In order to declare a "blue sky day", scientists measure the levels of three air pollutants.

But, says the BBC's James Reynolds in Beijing, the government's cut-off point is fairly lenient.

Days which count as "blue sky days" in the Chinese capital would count as polluted in other countries, our correspondent says.

And, he adds, on the non-blue sky days it is hard to see more than 50 metres ahead.

Beijing authorities now plan to set a target of 256 "blue sky days" days for 2008.

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