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Farmers Yearn for Environment-friendly Countryside
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Chinese farmers now use the phrase "environment-friendly", one of the goals in China's strategic plan of building up new socialist countryside, as a focus of their discussions.

"The phrase 'environment-friendly, mentioned by Premier Wen Jiabao in his annual work report to the nation on March 5, will bring actual benefits for us," said Hu Guochen, a farmer in northeast China's agricultural province of Heilongjiang.

Living in Mingshui County, remote and poor with a vast land of salina, Hu as well as other local farmers had not previously paid any attention to environmental protection in their farming activities.

"We have begun suffering from our wrongdoings in the past, such as overusing chemical fertilizers and cultivating land by simplex machinery that causes the hardening of soil and reduction of yield," Hu said, adding that poor quality causes grain prices drop.

In China, the natural environment and soil quality in rural areas are deteriorating. Without the conservation of soil and water, the land is doomed to become arid from over-development.

Therefore, the Chinese government has set the building of a "new socialist countryside" as the first of the programs during the nation's 11the Five-Year Guidelines (2006-2010) period.

At the same time, the government is making efforts to step up the protection and supervision of water, soil, grassland to build an environment-friendly society.

In the next five years, the government will pour huge investment into projects to boost rational development conducive to social harmony in rural areas.

The number of protests and disturbances across the countryside has been on rise, prompting the central government to seek more palatable rural policies.

"The premier's remarks on building an environment-friendly countryside drew a prosperous blueprint of new life for farmers," Hu acknowledged.

Hu and many other farmers in Mingshui County have ceased to overuse chemical fertilizers in farming and begun constructing houses using new building materials instead of mud bricks, which often produce dust that pollutes the air on windy days.

The village folks in the county are also preparing to implement cooperative farming by jointly using combine harvester and other farming machinery to save energy resources and raise production efficiency.

Zhao Yanbin, director of the Heilongjiang provincial office on promoting environmental protection, urged local governments to improve farmers' self-awareness and their duty to practice environmental protection.

"We cannot possibly materialize the goal of building up a socialist countryside in three or five years," he said, adding that environmental protection education for farmers as well as rural students will play a positive role in reaching the long-term goal.

Governments at all levels have launched a series of education programs such as spread of agricultural science, self-study via information networks and attending field classes led by experts.

Deng Zhijun, a farmer living in southwest China's Sichuan Province, said it is necessary to develop a healthy lifestyle and maintain a sanitary environment in rural areas.

With booming economic development, more and more villages in the agricultural province have taken measures to improve farmers' living conditions as well as the appearance of farmers' houses.

Some villages have even hired local farmers as full-time workers responsible for cleaning roads and the surrounding environment. Firewood and manure, which used to be placed in or around farmers' houses, have been moved to special sites outside of villages. Instead, flowers and trees are planted for decoration and enjoyment in farmers' lives.

Local officials convey confidence in creating clean and beautiful rural areas. They are making efforts to push forward environmental-improvement projects in rural areas across the province, including comprehensive reconstruction of houses with better sanitary conditions, establishment of garbage treatment centers and development of healthy behavioral habits.

(Xinhua News Agency March 13, 2006)

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