Beijing (AFP)

The air quality in Beijing, notoriously bad, has improved in recent years to the point that the Chinese capital could leave the list of the 200 most polluted cities in the world, according to a study published Thursday.

Beijing "is on the right track" to reduce PM2.5 particles by 2.5% this year compared to 2018, according to AirVisual, the research arm of the Swiss company IQAir, which specializes in air purifiers.

Between January and August, the average level of these particles - very dangerous because they penetrate deep into the lungs - was 42.6 micrograms per cubic meter of air, compared with 52.8 last year on the same period.

"Compared to the last decade, the difference is even more striking," says the study.

"The PM2.5 concentration in the first eight months of 2019 was half that of 2009 over the same period."

Chinese cities are regularly drowned in a greyish and toxic fog, the dark side of the frantic growth of the country, which has however helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

The economic miracle of recent decades has relied heavily on high production of steel, coal and cement - highly polluting sectors.

But under pressure from public opinion, the authorities launched in 2013 a plan against pollution, intended to reduce by a quarter the concentration of fine particles in key areas such as around Beijing and Shanghai.

Despite a significant improvement since then, current levels remain however four times higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization (WTO).

In 2018, Beijing was ranked 122nd among the most polluted cities in the world.

© 2019 AFP