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Major investment earmarked to protect ecology
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The central government plans to spend more than 20 billion yuan (US$2.85 billion) to protect the ecological system of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau during the 2006-30 period.

Fourteen conservation projects will be launched, covering grassland and wildlife protection, the establishment of nature reserves, the control of desertification and soil erosion, and geological disasters prevention, Zhang Yongze, director of the Tibet autonomous regional department of environment protection, said.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau boasts a unique ecosystem due to its climate and geography.

Tibet, with its biological diversity, is a major gene bank ensuring global biodiversity. However, the ecosystem is fragile and has difficulty recovering after being damaged.

"The government has always attached great importance to ecological conservation in the plateau region and allocating funding," Zhang said.

Between 2001 and 2005, he said, the central government put about 120 million yuan into protecting the Lhalu wetland in Lhasa - the highest and biggest urban wetland in the world, the nature reserve of the sacred Namco Lake and grasslands in Nagqu prefecture, as well as hefty investment in other areas.

"We have also banned the exploitation of some mineral resources," Zhang said.

After the freezing of the mining of gold dust in 2006, the regional government prohibited the exploitation of iron sand from the start of this year, he said. Local environment authorities will this year focus their efforts on pollution and radiation control, rural environmental protection, and the improvement of environmental monitoring and law enforcement systems, he said.

In another development, over the past five years, the Tibet government has spent 16.5 billion yuan on agriculture and pastoral farming, up 130 percent on the previous five years, according to the Tibet bureau of statistics.

Of the 2.8 million Tibetans, 80 percent survive on agriculture and pastoral farming. Last year, they were each paid a subsidy of 900 yuan.

(China Daily April 1, 2008)

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