New Five-Year Plan Gives Priority to Environmental Protection  

China has attached unprecedented importance to environmental protection and sustainable development in its 10th five-year plan for the 2001-2005 period, economic and environmental experts say.

According to the plan, which is expected to be adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) in session here since March 5, China will contribute 1.2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to environmental protection spending, a remarkable rise over the 0.93 percent in the ninth five-year plan.

A whole chapter of the draft plan is contributed to population, resources and environmental protection, while the whole plan is a clear embodiment of the sustainable development strategy.

Zhu Zuoyan, an NPC deputy and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: "The new five-year plan puts ecological construction on an unprecedented high plane. Major construction projects listed by the plan also stress their ecological benefits. This shows the government's strategic consideration for the nation's future and its responsible attitude towards the global ecological environment."

Analysts point out that China will face huge economic and environmental pressures when it tries to attain the goal of becoming a medium-developed country by the middle of the 21st century, and will have to make greater efforts than developed countries in the West.

Latest statistics show that sandstorms from the northwest have been causing an annual direct economic loss of 54 billion yuan for China over recent years, almost equivalent to the yearly agricultural production of Gansu, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia.

In the next five years, China is expected to launch comprehensive pollution treatment projects along the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Songhuajiang River.

By 2005, 45 percent of the urban sewage water is expected to be treated, and 60 percent of industrial wastewater recycled.

The development of the western regions, a major project on the five-year plan, also gives priority to ecological construction.

The government has banned the felling of natural forests in the upper valley of the Yangtze River and in the middle and upper valleys of the Yellow River.

With government support, 0.73 million hectares of hilly farmland have been converted into woodland and grassland so far, and 0.54 million hectares of barren hills afforestated.

A total of 3.6 billion yuan will be spent this year to return 330,000 hectares of hilly farmland into woodland and grassland. And the effort is to last for at least 10 years.

The West Gas for East Pipeline, an ambitious 140 billion yuan project on the five-year plan, will bring China's energy consumption into the age of natural gas.

The South Water for North Project will divert water of the Yangtze River to thirsty areas in the north, and save the Yellow River, China's "Mother River", from drying up.

"China's environmental protection work is a contribution to mankind," said Qu Geping, chairman of the Ninth NPC Environmental and Resources Protection Committee.

A report of the World Association of Resources points out that China's energy-saving measures in the last two decades have cut its coal consumption by 400 million tons.

"The 10th five-year plan describes a beautiful picture for us: a prospering economy, controlled population, well-preserved resources and a beautiful environment," said academician Zhu Zuoyan.

Original source: People's Daily
Submit by CEIN  News on 13.03.2003