Hebei Province surrounding Beijing and Tianjin municipalities will spend 418.8 billion yuan (US$51.7 billion) building an environment-friendly province over the next 30 years.
"The construction will result in a large eco-shelter for Beijing and Tianjin that have been suffering from severe sandstorms and water shortages," said Xie Zhenhua, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, at a recent expert panel meeting held here to deliberate the plan.
Hebei encircles Beijing and Tianjin from the north, west and south, with the east open to the Bohai Sea. Over the past two decades, environmental degradation in the province resulting from deforestation, rapid industrial development and high population growth has contributed greatly to air and water pollution in the two cities.
According to the plan that has been passed by the expert panel, Hebei will build 1,015 construction projects, with priority given to clean production and energy development, afforestation, soil erosion control, wetland protection and the control of water and air pollution.
"The plan is practical and if successfully implemented, Hebei will become a huge eco-shelter to Beijing and Tianjin," said Li Wenhua, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and head of the expert panel.
The plan will also help control the severe pollution in the Bohai Sea and prevent water pollution when the country is trying to divert water from the south to the north, a major project that ends in Beijing and Tianjin.
The water diversion water project runs through Hebei, and experts have feared that the clean water to be diverted from the Yangtze River in the south could be polluted when it flows through Hebei.
Since 2000, eight provinces in east and northeast China have launched projects of building environment-friendly provinces, a move that has not only effectively checked environmental degradation but also spurred economic growth.
Official statistics indicated that to date, the gross domestic product of the eight provinces -- Hainan, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Fujian, Zhejiang, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu -- put together has accounted for nearly half of the country's total.
(Xinhua News Agency September 3, 2005)