Cultivated land continued to shrink. A total of 229,000 hectares of cultivated land were used for construction purposes in 2003, 50,000 hectares were destroyed by disasters, 2,237,000 hectares were converted for ecological preservation, and another 332,000 hectares were turned to other uses due to the structural adjustment in the agriculture production. On the other hand, land reclamation and re-development projects restored 311,000 hectares of farmland. As a result, there was a net reduction of 2,537,000 hectares of cultivated land in 2003.
Consumption of energy and key raw materials increased significantly. Preliminary estimates indicate that total energy consumption in 2003 amounted to 1,678 million tons of standard coal equivalent, up by 10.1 per cent over 2003. Of this total, crude oil consumption was 252 million tons, up 12 per cent, and coal consumption was 1,579 million tons, up 13.6 per cent. The consumption of major raw materials included 271 million tons of rolled steel, up 28.6 per cent, 11.68 million tons of aluminum oxide, up 15.7 per cent, and 836 million tons of cement, up 15.3 per cent.
Water resource remained tight in terms of the supply-demand relationship. Water resources on per capita basis were 2,076 cubic metres in 2003, down by 5.6 per cent as compared with 2002. Average annual precipitation was 640 millimetres, down by 3.0 per cent. China's 454 large reservoirs held 186.4 billion cubic metres of water at the end of 2003, or 21.0 billion cubic metres more than at the end of 2002. Total water consumption in 2003 was 541.0 billion cubic metres, down by 1.5 per cent. Water consumption for household use rose by 5.0 per cent, for industrial use, up by 1.1 per cent, and for agricultural use, down by 3.5 per cent. Average per capita water consumption in 2003 was 420 cubic metres, down by 1.9 per cent.
Overall water quality slightly deteriorated. In the mainstreams of the seven main river systems, water of 52.5 per cent of the measured sections met the quality of Grade 3 as specified in the national standards for surface water, down by 0.4 percentage points over the previous year; 38.1 per cent met the quality of Grade 4 or 5, up by 11.3 percentage points; and 9.3 per cent failed to meet the quality of Grade 5, down by 11 percentage points. Of the 237 offshore monitoring stations, 19.8 per cent reported that the marine water under their observation met the quality of Grade 1 of the national standards for marine water, down by 1.5 percentage points.
New progress was made in the exploration of mineral resources. A total of 171 minerals have been found in China, of which 158 minerals have proven reserves, including 10 energy minerals, 54 metal minerals, 91 non-metal minerals and three water or gas minerals.
Some 157 new mineral deposits of large or medium scale were discovered through national land and resource surveys and geological surveys. Increased reserves were found for 59 minerals, including 799 million tons of crude oil, 503.54 billion cubic metres of natural gas and 5,195 million tons of coal.
Urban environmental protection was further strengthened. Among the 340 cities under the environment monitoring programme, the air quality of 141 cities met the Grade 2 standard, accounting for 41.5 per cent of all cities covered by the programme, up by 7.7 percentage points over the previous year; 108 cities met the Grade 3 standard, accounting for 31.8 per cent, or down by 3.2 percentage points; and the remaining 91 cities failed to meet the Grade 3 standard, accounting for 26.7 per cent, or down by 4.5 percentage points. In China's urban areas, 42.1 per cent of waste water was put under centralized processing systems, 58.0 per cent of solid waste from daily life was processed under nontoxic programmes, and 53.5 per cent of industrial solid waste was recycled or re-utilized, up by 2.1 percentage points, 3.8 percentage points and 1.5 percentage points as compared with 2002.
The established smoke/dust control zones covered an area of 33,000 square kilometres, and the noise pollution control zones covered 20,000 square kilometres.
Improvement of ecological system and environment was further enhanced. The total afforested area in 2003 was 9.30 million hectares, up by 19.7 per cent. Of this total, the 6 key forestation projects completed forestation of 8.31 million hectares. By the end of 2003, the State approved the establishment of 82 national ecological demonstration zones. China had 1,999 natural reserves, 44 national geological parks and 457 geological relic preservation zones. A total of 158 projects aimed at preventing geological disasters were completed in the Three Gorges Reservoir areas. Some 56,000 square metres were developed through comprehensive anti-erosion projects.
Occurrence of red tides increased. There were 119 red tides in 2003, 40 occurrences or 50.6 per cent more than in 2002. Covering an total area of 14,550 square metres, the occurrence of the red tides caused direct losses of 42.80 million yuan (US$5.16 million).
Various types of severe natural disasters took place. Natural disasters hit 54.386 million hectares of crops in 2003, 15.4 per cent more than the last year. Of the disaster-hit areas, 32.516 million hectares were severely affected and crops on 8.546 million hectares were completely destroyed, up 19.0 per cent and 30.3 per cent respectively. Economic losses caused by marine-related disasters totalled 8.05 billion yuan, up 22 per cent. China recorded 29 earthquakes of magnitude 5 and over on Richter scale in 2003 (while in 2002 there were nine such earthquakes), including seven earthquakes of magnitude 6 and over. The earthquakes claimed 319 lives and caused a loss of 4.66 billion yuan (US$561.4 million).
(China.org.cn March 1, 2004)