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Hainan on Path to Ecologically Sound Province
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China's southern island province Hainan is working hard to make itself an ecologically sound province.

It planted 126,667 hectares of trees in the past three years, boosting its forest coverage rate to 52.3 percent, said provincial vice-governor Li Lihui. Meanwhile, it closed 76 polluting industries.

These ecological efforts, backed by nearly 3 billion yuan (about US$361 million) of government funds, have pushed Hainan closer toward its goals of becoming a base for organic fruit and vegetables, a popular tourist destination, a center for environmentally-friendly industries and a place fit to live in.

More than 46,667 hectares of Hainan's farmland is now devoted to growing organic fruit and vegetables, whose combined output reached 30,000 tons in 2001.

The province is also attracting increasing numbers of tourists to its ecologically attractive mountains, forests, beaches, hot springs and rivers.

In Haikou, capital of the province, numerous green belts have sprung up adding life to the clusters of buildings in the Financial and Trade Zone. Green coverage rates are also growing fast in other cities on Hainan.

The campaign to make the island, naturally endowed with an excellent mix of sunshine, beaches, vegetation, clean air and sea, an ecologically sound province was adopted in July 1999 at the provincial people's congress.

In line with the campaign, Hainan will promote the development of an ecology-friendly economy over the next 30 years and build a sound tropical island ecosystem, develop industries based on sound ecological principles, promote harmony between people and nature and build a first-rate living environment. Previously, unscrupulous industrial and real estate developments were seriously threatening Hainan's reputation as "virgin territory", or one of the few unpolluted areas left in China.

By 1998, industrial waste gas and waste water discharges in the province had risen significantly. As a result of unchecked development, its virgin forest coverage slumped to 4 percent, compared with 35 percent in 1950. Mangrove and coral reef areas were both halved compared with 50 years before.

Worsening ecological conditions also took their toll on economic activities. For instance, the populations of 14 major species of commercial fish off Hainan's coast have all decreased, with some disappeared completely.

"Building an ecologically sound province is an innovative idea and meanwhile the only choice for Hainan. Hainan cannot afford to continue with the old practices any more," said Mou Weikan, an official of the provincial land and environment department who helped draft the program.

Mou said the province still faced myriad obstacles on its ecological path. The biggest issue was to find local people alternative incomes other than profitable but polluting economic activities.

However some ways had been found, he said. In Wenchang City, local farmers are encouraged to plant coconut trees inside coastal shelter forests. In Wanning City, people can raise chickens, ducks and geese in coastal forests.

Since Hainan led the way, more Chinese provinces have announced they will also become ecologically sound provinces. The list includes east China's Jiangxi and northeast China's Jilin provinces.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2002)

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