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China’s air quality problems have been well documented as cities have been besieged by thick smog — particularly in Beijing, where pollution levels spiked in January — putting the respiratory health of millions at risk. Now, it appears that the Chinese government is finally ready to take action. A new report published by the state-run China Daily newspaper says that the country will spend 1.7 trillion yuan ($277 billion) over the next five years to combat air pollution.

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In January, Beijing and other cities in northern China were cloaked with fog that was so thick it limited visibility to just a few hundred feet in some extreme cases. The problem stems from a variety of causes, including coal-fired power plants, automobile traffic, and industry. A recent study suggested that the smog will reduce the average life expectancy of people living in northern China by 5.5 years.

The thick smog angered residents, who were forced to stay inside for long periods of time, and provided a wake-up call for government leaders. “The thick smog and haze that covered large areas of the country in January has focused public attention on this issue,” Zhao Hualin, an official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, told China Daily.

In December, the Chinese government announced plans to 350 billion yuan ($56 billion) by 2015 to reduce air pollution. But soon after making the announcement, officials realized that it wouldn’t be enough Under the new plan, the government will increase the amount of money it spends by more than $200 billion, and it will seek to reduce air emissions by 25 percent by 2017. As Reuters notes, efforts have been made in the past to curb air pollution, but enforcement has been a challenge. So it remains to be seen if all that money will help to improve China’s air quality.

via Reuters