China is ramping up air quality controls in Beijing to ensure air pollution is much reduced by the time of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which the capital hopes to host.
Barbecues are the latest target as Beijing announced on Wednesday a ban on restaurants operating outdoor barbecues in selected suburban areas.
According to the authorities, barbecues are a major contributor to smog.
China is going all out to bring "Olympic blue" to Beijing, said officials — a reference to the expression "APEC blue," coined during last November's meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in the capital.
Strict pollution controls imposed during the gathering of leaders from Pacific Rim nations led to a big drop in pollutants in the air.
The resulting clear skies were dubbed by Beijing web users "APEC blue."
Air pollution, which has plagued the city for years, is believed to be a major factor affecting Beijing's chances of securing the 2022 Games.
But the first quarter saw Beijing's average density of PM2.5 — airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter — drop significantly, thanks to pollution control efforts and favorable weather, said officials.
The average density of PM2.5 dropped by 19 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau.
The average densities of PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide also dropped by 8.8 percent, 42.9 percent and 11.4 percent respectively.
Chen Tian, head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, attributed the air quality improvement to the reduction of coal burning, a drop in construction activities and favorable air conditions that helped disperse pollutants.
Last year, Beijing achieved a record 2.8-million ton reduction in coal use. And in March, two sets of coal-burning power generation facilities at two plants were shut down.
The capital will further improve its energy structure to keep coal consumption under 15 million tons, phase out 200,000 vehicles and close more than 300 polluting factories this year, said officials.
Beijing has 5.5 million registered vehicles, which discharge 700,000 tons of pollutants a year.
"We will accelerate the promotion of new energy cars to control emissions," said bureau official Li Kunsheng.
New policies targeting traffic congestion and dust from construction sites will also be adopted, said vice mayor Zhang Gong.
Meanwhile, air quality in nearby Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province also improved in the first quarter.
PM2.5 density dropped 15 percent in Tianjin and 25 percent in Hebei Province year-on-year in the first quarter.
Beijing and the neighboring Tianjin and Hebei have been working together to fight air pollution in recent years.
Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan are the candidates to host the 2022 Winter Olympic. The International Olympic Committee will vote to choose the host on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.