BEIJING, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang "declared war" against pollution on Wednesday and pledged to fight it with the same determination the country battled poverty, as choking smog has become major environmental and health concerns.
The government will take strong measures to prevent and control pollution with the focus on mega cities and regions with frequent occurrence of smog, Li said in his first government work report at the annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.
The government will start by reducing PM10 and PM2.5 emissions, and focus on improving the industrial structure, raising energy efficiency, reducing vehicle exhaust emissions, and preventing and monitoring wind-borne dust, Li said.
Miao Xuegang, an NPC deputy and head of the environmental protection department of east China's Anhui Province, said that Li's declaration is "a letter of commitment from the government."
A total of 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces will be shut down this year and cleaning technologies, including desulphurization, denitrification and dust removal, will be introduced at coal-burning power plants, according to Li's report.
Six million old high-emission vehicles will be removed from the roads, and diesel fuel for vehicles that meets fourth-stage national standards will be provided nationwide this year, Li said.
The government will also implement the clean water action plan, strengthen the protection of sources of drinking water, prevent and control water pollution in key river basins, and carry out land restoration.
Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature's red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development, Li said.
Ai Nanshan, a professor at Sichuan University in southwest China's Chengdu, said the government shoulders a major responsibility in dealing with pollution.
"You can not get a beautiful GDP figure at the cost of environment," said Ai, a researcher of environment studies.
Local officials would have no desire to tackle pollution if gross domestic product (GDP) remained a solely important element in the evaluation of their performance, Ai said.
Zhang Wenxin, deputy head of Xinbin county of northeast China's Liaoning Province, said an effective official assessment mechanism should be established to encourage local officials to put more efforts in environmental protection.
Zhang is in charge of the environmental protection affairs of the autonomous county of ethnic Man.