Ecological Protection Given More Prominence

China is expected to lay unprecedented emphasis on ecological conservation and environmental protection during its economic expansion in the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05), according to a senior environmental legislator.

The country's new economic blueprint, which was submitted by Premier Zhu Rongji to the National People's Congress (NPC) for consideration on Monday, not only has a special chapter on the efforts, but also sets forth a sustainable development strategy for the national economy, Qu Geping said yesterday.

Qu, chairman of the Environmental and Resources Protection Committee under the Standing Committee of the NPC, said he envisioned the country would make marked progress in ecological and environmental protection during the coming five years.

The country will further reduce discharges of various industrial pollutants by 10 percent from its current levels, and improve the sewage treatment rate in large cities to 45 percent from the existing 15 percent, Qu said.

Air pollution in major cities will also be significantly reduced, he said.

In addition, the ecological situation in the country's central and western regions and in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River will be greatly improved. In those areas, China will return reclaimed land to forest and grassland, close down pollution-causing firms, rein in land and soil erosion over more than 200,000 hectares, and combat the rampant spread of desert conditions, according to the legislator.

Asked about the possible impact on the environment caused by the implementation of the proposed massive project to divert water from the country's southern to northern regions, Qu conceded that the most pressing concerns centres on environmental problems.

Dire consequences can be avoided by economizing on water use, cleaning water before diverting it, and treating pollution in the regions before the diverted water flows there, he said.

Sun Honglie, a NPC deputy, said China's water prices should be raised to a "rational level" to encourage people to save water.

Over the last five years, China's top legislature has brought in six laws and revised nine others on environmental protection and ecological conservation, including those on controlling solid waste pollution, air pollution, and water and soil preservation, according to Qu.

(China Daily 03/10/2001)

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