Beijing will spend 18.2 billion yuan (2.6 billion U.S. dollars) to fight air pollution in 2017, officials said Saturday.
This year, the city will strengthen air pollution treatment, replace coal with clean energy for 700 villages, phase out 300,000 high-polluting old vehicles, close or upgrade 2,570 polluting factories, said acting mayor Cai Qi while delivering the city government work report to the annual session of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, which opened on Saturday.
Cai said Beijing will take tougher measures to improve the city's air quality in 2017.
The city will "strictly implement emission standards, enhance the environmental law enforcement and establish an environmental protection police force," he said in the work report.
Acts of excessively or secretly discharging pollutants will be severely punished, Cai added.
According to an official of the Beijing Public Security Bureau,the 150-strong environment,food,drug and tourism safety police force has been established and will be officially inaugurated soon.
The environment police squad can detain suspects in serious environment-related cases, the official told municipal lawmakers.
The environment police will work with the city's environmental protection authorities to crack down on violations in environmental protection, Fang Li, head of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, told reporters with qianlong.com, a major news portal of the capital.
Beijing's environmental watchdog handled 13,127 environment-related cases in 2016, with fines totalling 150 million yuan (21.8 million U.S. dollars), including 40 million yuan for nearly 1,400 air pollution cases.
Last year, Beijing had 198 days with good air quality, an increase of 12 days from 2015. Its average density of PM2.5, airborne particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, was 73 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016, down 9.9 percent from 2015.
The city aims to control the annual average density of PM2.5 to around 60 micrograms per cubic meter this year, said Lu Yan, head of the Beijing Development and Reform Commission.