Nobody can challenge 75-year-old retired worker Wang Hongyi's knowledge of environmental change in the industrial city of Baotou, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
"I have been in this area with my sons and grandsons for 50 years and environmental change during recent years in my hometown has really amazed me," said Wang, who was involved in the construction of the city in 1958.
Wang recalls that 50 years ago, when the population reached 80,000 in Baotou, there were only 60 big trees dotted along the streets.
Dry weather in the area has made it difficult to grow trees and lawns. The annual rainfall in the city is only 200 millimeters, while evaporation exceeds 2,300 millimeters.
In addition, a major earthquake in 1996 destroyed most of the timeworn medium- and low-income households in Baotou, depriving almost 1 million people of their homes.
Despite these difficulties and disaster, Baotou attracted international attention early last month. The United Nations (UN) gave the city an award for its "outstanding improvements in shelter and the urban environment and successful co-operation with other Chinese cities."
Huge investment in projects to cut pollution and make the city greener has helped Baotou, a center for heavy industry, become a garden community, according to the UN citation.
Han Zhiran, mayor of the city, whose population is now 2 million, said the program to make the city greener has increased its total planted area by 31 percent.
Wang and his neighbors are proud that the city now has 10 large parks and 90 street gardens.
To make the city greener, drought-resistant plants and water-saving facilities have been installed, including sprinkling and drip irrigation.
The city has already spent 2 billion yuan (US$242 million) on major projects over the past five years to cut air and water pollution.
To further improve air quality, Baotou will continue to restructure its industries and encourage the use of clean fuels like geothermal resources, electricity and solar energy.
Other industrial cities have followed the example of Baotou in joining forces to curb air pollution and make the streets and residential areas greener.
Such hard work represents China's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the environment to contribute to the international push against pollution.
(China Daily November 7, 2002)