Govt closing gap in urban-rural living

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China will make greater efforts to improve living environments in rural areas to reduce the gap with urban areas as it carries out its rural rejuvenation strategy, a top agricultural official said on Saturday.

A key in those efforts will be accelerating the creation and improvement of development plans for villages across the country to meet the expectations of residents in rural areas, Yu Xinrong, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, said at a news conference.

The plans should suit local conditions and serve to guide the sustainable and healthy development of rural areas, he said.

The ministry will improve supervision over local governments to improve the living environment in rural areas, and improvements will be used in the performance evaluations of local officials, he said.

China will continue to improve living environments in rural areas, aiming for beautiful and livable villages, according to a plan on rural rejuvenation released by the central government last week.

Efforts will focus on areas including the treatment of waste and sewage in rural areas and improving infrastructure, such as roads, the plan said. Measures include promoting green agriculture to reduce environmental pollution, intensifying resource conservation and promoting a recycling economy in rural areas, the plan said.

Living environments in rural areas will see improvements by 2022, under the plan. By 2035, crucial progress will have been made for rural rejuvenation, and the modernization of agricultural and rural areas will be completed, it said.

Although the living environments in rural areas across China have been improving in recent years, they lag behind urban areas considerably, Yu said.

For example, about one-fourth of household garbage in rural areas is not collected and treated, and 80 percent of household sewage in rural areas is not properly treated before being discharged into the environment, he said.

While almost all roads in cities are paved, dirt roads still exist in about one-third of all villages in China, he said.

Zhang Yong, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, said China will continue to increase its investment in basic infrastructure in rural areas to reduce the rural-urban gap.

"Rural areas in some places, especially in central and western areas, are relatively backward, which is why there are so many migrant workers in cities," he said.

But in more prosperous regions, such as Zhejiang province, rural areas can be wealthier than urban areas, he said.

Local governments should make more detailed plans that suit their own conditions to carry out the national plan and improve living environments in rural areas, Zhang said.

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