A tourist wearing the mask looks at the Forbidden City as pollution covers the city on Jan. 16, 2013 in Beijing, China.
Credit: Feng Li

China announced Friday its intent to spend about $16 billion by 2015 to help solve Beijing's pollution crisis.

The government said it will build 47 water recycle plants and upgrade 20 sewage plants, as well as curb illegal construction in an attempt to improve air quality, China Daily reported.

"We plan to invest 84.8 billion yuan in sewage and garbage treatment plus 30 billion yuan on forestation over the next three years," said Beijing's mayor Wang Anshun.

For the most part, Beijing's air - and its 20 million residents - have avoided "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels in 2013

Zhao Zhangyuan, a professor at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, said the plan lacked specifics.

"It sounds more like political talk by newly appointed officials. For example, the plan didn't mention any detailed means targeting specific pollution-making industries, or cooperation with contiguous provinces and regions, as air pollution can't be solved by Beijing alone," Zhangyuan said.

The announcement follows a report by the Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning - part of the Ministry of Environmental Protection - that said environmental degradation in China cost the country about $230 billion in 2010.

That figure, according to The New York Times, "is based on costs arising from pollution and damage to the ecosystem, the price that China is paying for its rapid industrialization."

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