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Ecological Legislation Urged for Man-nature Harmony

As lawmakers and top-notch experts meet in Beijing to confer on China's future road for development, a sandstorm sweeping the national capital and elsewhere in north China Tuesday night comes as a warning that ecological protection constitute a major part of the sustainable development strategy.


While the rare gale-force dusty wind was swirling across the broad Chang'an Avenue in central Beijing Wednesday, Chinese leaders and some ministerial and provincial officials converged in the Great Hall of the People by the roadside for a scheduled seminar on population, resources and the environment.


President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiao both stressed at the meeting that big, substantial efforts must be made to increase the man-nature harmony and the harmony between economic growth and population, resources and the environment.


Since they assumed office a year ago, Hu and Wen and other members of the central leadership have been working hard for the country's coordinated development, which is hailed as a criticism of those officials long indulged in GDP-centered development.


A seminar on population, resources and the environment held by central authorities has become an annual event for consecutive years on the sidelines of the annual sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top legislature and advisory body respectively.


Encouraged by the new concept of scientific development that is aimed to do away with the long-standing "GDP worshipping", many NPC deputies and CPPCC members voiced vehement calls for beefing up legislation for ecological protection.


Wang Xi, a member of the CPPCC National Committee and a noted expert in environmental laws, is in a heavy mood while talking about the worsening environment in numerous places of the country, especially the rapid desertification encroaching upon the farmland for nearly 400 million people in 471 counties in 18 provinces.


Wang cited statistics as saying that in the four decades from 1950s to 1990s, the acreage of desertification in China expanded from 560 sq km to 2,460 sq km a year.


"With the dwindling capacity of natural resources to support human activities, environmental degeneration is bound to be irreversible," he warned.


CPPCC National Committee member Yin Hongfu is of a more radical view that "Humankind might possibly head to extinction like dinosaurs millions of years ago if we cannot halt destruction to the natural equilibrium and fail to co-exist with other living beings in harmony."


Yin, also president of China Geology University (Wuhan), called for a nationwide introspection of the current production mode and lifestyle in the wake of the SARS and bird flu outbreak.


NPC deputy Wang Junlin is keen on the people's call for a better environment, acknowledging that the Chinese people, who are getting better of with the rapid economic growth of their nation, pay more attention to environmental problems.


"Environmental protection should go side by side with economic growth," said Wang, an entrepreneur from southwestern Sichuan Province where much of the country's "return-farmland-to-forest" program is being carried out on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.


NPC deputies and CPPCC members also put forward proposals in an effort to push for accelerated legislation governing ecological protection and improvement.


Li Guo'an, a military officer who has led his men in searching water resources in the vast Gobi desert in northwestern China for more than 30 years, called for scientific ways for restoring vegetation.


"It's wise to grow whatever suits specific local conditions in the desert -- trees, bushes or grass, and none of the greenery plans should be built on long-term reliance on man-made irrigation systems," said Li.


As environmental protection is placed high on the agenda of China's strategic plan to develop the vast western regions, legislators and advisors also urged equal importance to the current endeavor to invigorate the "rust-belt" industrial base in the northeast.


CPPCC member Niu Wenyuan suggested discarding the out-dated production mode that "large-scale production and consumption result in heavy environmental pollution."


While heated discussion over plans for China's further development is going on at the NPC and CPPCC annual sessions, the State Statistics Bureau has begun looking into an index system to assess and determine the performance of the national economy dubbed as "Green GDP".


"Green GDP", which deducts the costs of resources consumption and environmental damage from gross domestic product, will help sharpen people's awareness of sustainable development, said Xu Xianchun, a senior official with the statistics bureau.


Some indices of the "Green GDP" system have been tried tested in Hainan Province and Chongqing Municipality, said Xu, adding that local leaders in Beijing, Zhejiang, Anhui, Guangdong, Fujian and Jiangsu provinces have decided to take losses to the environment and natural resources as a major part of their local GDP.


Observers noted that all this indicates "Green GDP" may become the newest fruit on the vine of the development approach to harmony between man and nature.


(Xinhua News Agency March 11, 2004)


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