Experts showed skepticism Friday about the prospects of a Beijing municipal governmental plan to spend over 100 billion yuan ($16.1 billion) in the next three years to significantly improve the city's environment.
At a municipal working conference of ecology and urban construction development Thursday, air pollution, sewage and garbage treatment, and illegal construction were singled out as the major targets.
"We plan to invest 84.8 billion yuan in sewage and garbage treatment plus 30 billion yuan on forestation over the next three years," said Wang Anshun, Beijing's mayor.
According to Fang Li, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, Beijing will build 47 new recycled water plants and upgrade 20 sewage treatment plants in the next three years to increase the sewage treatment rate to 90 percent to control river pollution.
Fang added that by the end of 2015, city garbage treatment capacities will have increased by 37 percent, and 70 percent of daily waste will be dealt with through incineration or biochemical treatment.
Seven major planned campaigns are aimed at battling Beijing's notorious smog, including limiting total coal usage to 21.5 million tons, meaning a 5 percent year-on-year decrease from 2012, stricter driving restrictions and strengthened management of car emissions.
"We will expand the subway network to 460 kilometers and expect half of travel downtown to rely on the public transportation system by the end of the year," Fang said.
The plans are ambitious, but Zhao Zhangyuan, a professor at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, told the Global Times Friday that he is not optimistic about the plan as the environmental problems of the city are too serious to be quickly or easily resolved.
"It sounds more like political talk by newly appointed officials. For example, the plan didn't mention any detailed means targeting specific pollution-making industries, or cooperation with contiguous provinces and regions, as air pollution can't be solved by Beijing alone," Zhang said.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times that although the intention of the government is good, the key is to ensure the implementation of these measures.
"We want to see real action, while past experience showed us that ambitious government plans always end up with nothing really changing," Ma said Friday.