The central government has been busy putting the final touches to a national plan to improve coordination in developing the Yangtze River Delta.
The delta region, China's economic powerhouse, is expected to encounter another spurt of fast development after the plan has been approved by the National People's Congress.
"We are busy in drafting detailed measures to speed up development in the region," said Shen Xujian, deputy regional development director under the National Development and Reform Commission.
The final plan is scheduled to be finished next March, he said.
Shen said national coordination efforts in the region will be focused on transportation, energy, land use, environmental protection, urban and industrial planning, human resources development and international cooperation.
"The region's development needs united efforts," said Shen.
The Yangtze River Delta in east China and the Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan cluster have been chosen as two key regions to be targeted by the central government's 11th Five-Year (2006-10) Economic and Social Development Plan.
The Pearl River Delta, South China's economic belt, was not included on the national list.
Shen said the coordination plan will help speed up integration between Shanghai and other cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The region, with a population of about 87 million, has contributed nearly 20 percent of China's GDP.
Currently, the region is facing problems such as repetitive construction, huge environmental pressure and a lack of unified planning for regional infrastructure.
Those problems can only be tackled with unified planning under the guidance of scientific development principles, Shen said.
Environmental problems and the region's energy shortages are to be highlighted in the coming plan.
Chen Qingtai, former deputy director of the Development Research Center of the State Council said the region must build up an efficient dialogue platform, and an information communication channel, as well as a cooperative system to achieve effective regional cooperation.
Chen said the regional environmental problems spread beyond administrative boundaries and geographical frontiers. "The solution to cross-boundary environmental problems relies on regional cooperation along the Yangtze River Delta, one of China's most dynamic areas," he said.
Due to rapid economic development in the delta, which covers Shanghai and 15 other cities in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, shortages of natural resources and worsening environmental conditions are become more and more obvious, according to a report released by the United States Environmental Defence (EDF) and Tsinghua University.
The worsening pollution of major rivers and lakes and atmospheric pollutants, especially sulphur dioxide that causes acid rain, have become major environmental problems in the region, according to the report.
(China Daily October 24, 2005)