Environment Will Not Be Sacrificed in Western China: Expert

Large-scale construction for rapid development in western China will not necessarily come at the cost of a fragile ecological environment, a senior environmental protection expert said Friday.

Qu Geping, chairman of the Environment and Resources Protection Committee of the National People's Congress, said China adheres to the policy of sustainable development when formulating the strategy to develop the vast, impoverished west.

He said China has adopted a number of measures to protect and improve the ecological environment in the region. Pilot programs have been launched in 188 counties for restoring forest and grassland in a total of 700,000 hectares of cultivated land so as to prevent soil erosion.

In addition, 530,000 hectares of mountainous areas have been closed for afforestation, said Qu, who is known as the pioneer of China's environmental protection campaign and former director of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

The central and local governments have set up special departments in charge of evaluating environmental impact of planned large-scale construction projects, said Qu.

"The government will not approve any project that fails the evaluation," he stressed.

According to a national economic and social development plan which is being examined before approval by the legislature, all the sloping and ecologically important farmland with serious water and soil erosion problems will be restored as woodland in the next five to 10 years in mid-western region.

The central government also plans to bring under control the water and soil erosion in areas totaling 20 million ha.

Wind and sand control efforts will be made in areas totaling 26 million ha, according to the plan.

On environmental impact of the Three Gorges Dam Project in central China's Hubei province, Qu said China plans to build 39 waste water treatment plants along the Yangtze River to curb water pollution while tightening industrial pollution control in areas along the Yangtze River.

The plants have a combined designed capacity of handling three million tons of polluted water a day, he said.

"I'm sure the 600 km Three Gorges Reservoir under construction will not be polluted," said Qu.

The Chinese government has also been aware of the environmental issues concerning the proposal to divert water from the Yangtze River to thirsty northern China, he said.

Areas in northern China should not use the diverted water until they have brought under control their water pollution problem, improved their water use efficiency and taken necessary measures to improve their water environment, said Qu.

(China Daily 03/10/2001)

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