The five-year development plan for north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has included a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEIA) as a part of its program, the first development program in the country to do so, a senior environmental official said in Beijing on Wednesday.
"This is the first time that an SEIA has formed part a province's economic and social development program," said Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).
"The practice will pave the way for the country to combat environmental degradation at the source," he said.
The environmental assessment mechanism attempts to predict and assess the environmental impact of economic policies and programs before they are implemented.
China is facing severe environmental degradation, which many blame on the lack of environmental assessments when development programs are being drafted.
Inner Mongolia has suffered environmental deterioration in recent years due to overzealous industrial development, intensive farming and overgrazing.
Pan said Inner Mongolia's new five-year development program had adopted most of the proposals put forward in the SEIA report that was prepared by the SEPA and regional environment departments.
The proposals try to balance environmental protection with economic growth with the creation of five major ecological regions and by cutting coal production from 500 million to 400 million tons.
Inner Mongolia, which accounts for one-eighth of China's landmass, is rich in mineral resources and is an ecologically sensitive area. It also serves an important function as a barrier preventing sandstorms from reaching Beijing and other parts of China.
(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2006)