Two Chinese cities have been elected to the prestigious ranks of the Global 500 Roll of Honor for their outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) announced Wednesday in Nairobi, capital of Kenya.
Aohanqi achieved a near miracle through "desert warfare"
Aohanqi County of Chifeng City in northeastern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has achieved a near miracle by holding back the seemingly relentless march of the deserts through a vigorous, 30-year strategy of "desert warfare" using trees and grasslands, said UNEP in a statement.
Up to date, forest coverage in the city has reached 43.5 percent and 8,000 hectares of grasslands have been planted. Soil erosion losses have more than halved from over 5,000 tons per square kilometer a year and movable sand dunes have been reduced from 38,000 hectares to just 6,000 hectares.
Meanwhile, food production in the country has risen eight-fold since the 1970s and gross domestic product (GDP) has climbed ten- fold over the same period.
The remarkable success of Aohanqi offers a beacon of hope to other places around the globe where desertification threatens people with poverty and water shortages, said the statement.
"Fighting the spread of deserts and erosion is one of the most formidable challenges facing the world today. The fact that a community has not only halted the spread of a desert, but appears to be overwhelming these forces of environmental degradation is an achievement for which the people of Aohanqi, Chifeng City, should be rightly proud," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer.
Another Chinese city that has won the Global 500 award is Shenzhen in the southern part of the country, which will also host this year's World Environment Day from June 4 to 5.
Shenzhen has won the award for its impressive achievement of marrying rapid and astonishing economic growth with environmental protection, said UNEP, adding that the actions taken by the city to secure environmental standards across industry and business are legion.
Since being established in 1980 as China's first Special Economic Zone, the municipal council has spent 3.8 billion yuan ( about 463 million U.S. dollars) on environment, passed 38 local environmental laws and increased green coverage in the center by 45 percent.
The city has also vetoed 3,619 projects that have failed to meet environmental requirements, with its air quality now meeting environmental standards on 98.4 percent of days and drinking water meeting national standards, said the statement.
"All this and more has been achieved against the backdrop of economic growth that has seen the city's annual GDP increase by over 30 per cent in 21 years," said Toepfer.
"I look forward to learning at first-hand how this city has put itself on course towards the goal of sustainable development in this year of the World Summit on Sustainable Development taking place in Johannesburg between August 26 and September 4," he added.
Joining the two Chinese cities as winners of the Global Award are five environmental groups from Angola, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, the Philippines and the United States.
Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan is this year's only individual winner who is acknowledged for her outstanding awareness raising of environmental issues in the Middle East, said UNEP.
Since the inception of the award in 1987, 727 individuals and organizations have been honored by UNEP, among them 25 Chinese individuals and organizations.
And this year's award will be presented to winners in Shenzhen on June 4 as part of the World Environment Day celebrations.
( People’s Daily May 16, 2002)