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February 8, 2012

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Crackdown on official cars to curb pollution

Government vehicles and those used by state-owned companies will have to stay off the road for one day each week in a new nationwide campaign to conserve energy and curb pollution.

The vehicle curfew is among a package of schemes ordered by the central government to be carried out over the next four years.

The day when vehicles will remain parked will be determined by the last digit on their license plates, according to rules stipulated by 17 ministries and agencies led by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance.

The excessive use of cars by government and state-owned companies has long been a matter of public concern in China. The latest moves seem, initially at least, to have done little to ease their worries.

The new rules met a barrage of criticism when they were published yesterday.

"I'm so interested in knowing how they can enforce it?" was a typical online comment.

The cynicism dates back to 2008, when Shanghai, Beijing and several Chinese provinces introduced similar restrictions. The move was broadly welcomed, but it was later reported that some government departments got round the ban merely by purchasing additional vehicles.

There is no official figure of the number of vehicles in Shanghai used by local government and state-owned companies but an insider involved in vehicle purchasing for the government said it would be in the thousands.

To ensure the new rules are enforced, a team of 1 million volunteers is to be recruited. They would oversee the energy-saving efforts and report violations of the rules. There were no further details of how the team would operate.

Also included in the energy-saving package is the use of recycled paper and green stationery in government offices. Reducing the use of elevators to save energy is also being encouraged.

Shanghai government offices have already restrict the use of elevators. At the City Hall in People's Square, for example, the lift doesn't stop at the first floor and there are notices encouraging people to use the stairs to get to lower floors.

There will also be trials in some cities where government staff will have to get on their bikes.

Public servants will be encouraged to walk if their journey is less than a kilometer, ride bicycles for journeys up to 3 kilometers and use public transport for trips less than 5 kilometers.


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