BEIJING, March 4 (Xinhua) -- Beijingers enjoyed a rare day of blue skies and bright sunshine on Monday, as the dangerously smoggy conditions seen over the last two months forced many to stay at home.
Air pollution remains a big problem for Beijing and many other Chinese large cities. Citizens expect the ongoing sessions of the country's legislature and top political advisory body to result in practical moves to solve the pollution problem.
The annual session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's political advisory body, opened Sunday. The session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC), China's legislature, convenes on Tuesday.
The meetings mark the first time for the two bodies to convene since the Communist Party of China (CPC) launched its new leadership late last year.
"Development will consume resources. But people are increasingly aware of the importance of the quality of their living environment," said Xiao Xingzhi, a professor at the Dongbei University of Finance and Economics in northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Repairing the environment and meeting related public expectations will be a major task for the new government that will be selected during the sessions, Xiao said.
Multiple Chinese cities were hit with dense smog in January. Beijing, for instance, had 23 smoggy days from Jan. 1 to 28, about 10 more than the annual average during the same period over the last 10 years and the most since 1954.
The average density of PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or less, in January was 180 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, about 30 percent higher than that recorded during the same period from 2009 to 2011, according to meteorological data.
Vehicle exhaust and emissions from coal-burning plants were blamed for the prolonged smog that hit north and east China in January and February.
"We have no choice but to rely on wind to blow away pollutants and bring fresh air," said Gong Hanlin, a member of the political advisory body.
"Economic growth is a must. But the urban environment is worrisome. We cannot only focus on the economy. We should also care about the real improvement of our quality of life," said Gong.
Efforts to revive the environment are ongoing. After five years of treatment, the Liaohe River in northeast China has improved its water quality significantly.
Local governments in Liaoning Province invested more than 50 billion yuan (about 7.96 billion U.S.dollars) to treat the river, closing nearly 300 paper plants and setting up new waste water treatment factories.
"The river's dirty water stank in the past. But now, wild fowl have reappeared," said Sun Jun, a villager who lives on the banks of the Liaohe River. He said local residents did not believe the river's water quality could be improved at the beginning.
"The successful treatment of the Liaohe River tells us that a 'beautiful China' will not be a mere dream as long as officials at all levels truly stick to a scientific outlook on development," said He Wei, a member of the 12th National Committee of the CPPCC.
Lyu Xinhua, a spokesman for the annual session of the CPPCC National Committee, said China's rapid industrialization and urbanization have caused energy consumption to skyrocket.
China's energy structure is not reasonable and efforts on the part of some companies to protect the environment have been poor, Lyu said at a press conference on Sunday.
He acknowledged that it is difficult for some cities, including Beijing, to meet national air quality standards in the short term.
Lyu said the government should invest more and enhance legislation regarding environmental protection. Public participation and supervision will also be of great significance, he said.
Wan Gang, vice chairman of the 11th CPPCC National Committee, said the country should be more active in developing clean production technology and sewage treatment facilities.
"Only when our ways of life and production become 'green' can we regain blue skies and clean water," said Wan, who is also minister of science and technology.
Zhou Haixiang, an environmental protection volunteer, said that while the central and local governments have made great efforts to treat pollution, China's citizens expect more.
"I hope the two bodies will collect public opinions and come up with more effective measures to protect the environment," he said.