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Making Great Effort to Manage the Loess Plateau in a Comprehensive Way and Accelerating Ecological Improvement and Coordinated Economic Development in Shaanxi

1999-10-20author:Wang Shousensource:

  Respectable chairman,vice-chairman,all the committee members,ladies and gentlemen:

  Environment and development is an important issue of economic and social development and it is of universal concern for all countries in the world.The economic development and environmental improvement in Shaanxi,and underdeveloped province with adverse ecological environment,has received attention from the central government of our country.In 1997 President Jiang Zemin issued an important instruction on soil erosion in Yan'an and Yulin Prefectures in our province:"Build a northwestern region with beautiful mountains and rivers."When inspecting Yan'an for the investigation of water conservancy,Premier Zhu Rongji put forward the guiding principle of"returning grain plots to forestry,closing hillsides to facilitate afforestation,contractual management and providing grain as relief aid".He also set forth new requirements for the environmental improvement and economic development in Shaanxi.We feel that speeding up the pace of tacking the problems of the Loess Plateau is not only the need of preventing soil erosion,harnessing the Yellow River and ameliorating the environment,but also the requirement of ensuring the development of the west and a sustained social and economic development.I am here to brief you on behalf of the Shaanxi Provincial Government about what we have done and what we are going to do in the construction of ecological environment,especially the comprehensive management of the Loess Plateau within our province.

  Shaaxi Province,located in the reaches of both the Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers,covers a total area of 205,600 square kilometers with 5.13 million hectare being cultivated and has a population of 35.7 million of whom 27.37 million are peasants.Since 1949 when People's Republic of China was founded,we have,under the leader ship of the Provincial Party Committee and the Provincial Government,waged unremitting and arduous struggles to plant trees and grass and prevent soil erosion and desertification.Especially after Jiang Zemin and other state leaders gave instructions on preventing the loss of water and soil and on the construction of ecoagriculture,people all over the province have waged a mass campaign to tame mountains and rivers.By the end of 1998 soil erosion had been stopped on 78,000 km2,about 130 million tons of silt had been prevented from flowing into the Yellow River every year,the preserved forested area had reached 5.92 million hectares with a coverage of 28.8%;the area covered by planted grass had come to 750,000 hectares with a coverage of 38.2%.Conditions for agricultural production have been remarkably improved and the ecological environment ameliorated.We have accumulated some experience in the management of the Loess Plateau.It includes the following.

  1.We have adhered to unified planning and comprehensive management and followed a course of sustained development by replacing the destruction of forests and extensive farming with the plantation of trees and grass and intensive farming.

  Ours is one of China's provinces most seriously affected by soil erosion.Its soil erosion area amounts to 52.3% and its decertified area comes up to 363,000 hectares.This is particularly severe in northern regions and Weibei region.In these regions,"hillsides were hare,land lay in waste,water was muddy and people were poor".Peasants there destroyed forests and opened up hillsides to grow crops,which resulted in the worsening of ecoenvironment instead of eliminating poverty as they had wished to.The more land they reclaimed,the poorer they became.To change the situation we have adopted many measures to put up a stubborn fight against soil erosion and desertification.In the 1970s when feeding the population was our priority concern,we built lots of terraced fields and dams,which yielded little results.Every time flood came,all the water conservancy projects were badly damaged.One bitter lesson after another made us aware that only projects and isolated operations would never do and we had to do it in a comprehensive way and on a large scale starting from 1980s we began to return grain plots to pasture in planned way and concentrated our attention on the improvement of eco-environment. In Miaogou Village near the Date Garden of Yan'an,where Chairman Mao once lived in the war times,5,000 mu of grain plots were given up in 1984 and 1985 and 2,100 mu of land were planted with apple trees and 3,400 mu of commercial forest were completed. The grain plot returning rate was 72%.The average area of cultivated land per capita in the village was reduced from 15 mu to 4 mu while the average amount of grain per person increased from 150 kg to 500 kg and the income per person reached 5,000 yuan. The experience of Miaogou Village gave us very helpful revelations. So in 1990s we began, on the basis of such experiences, to return grain plots in a more planned way .We took into consideration of mountains, rivers, land, forest and roads when we made a unified plan. We made managerial, biological and farming arrangements of ridges, hills, gullies, hillsides and level areas. We wage intensive and concerted operations one hill after another,on gully and another and one river system after another. We made sure that strict measures were implemented and quality reached the goals.

  In the regions along the Wuding and the Yanhe Rivers after the comprehensive man

  agement, the farm land per person reaches 2.8 mu, the grain and income per capita

  surpassed one thousand kg and RMB yuan. The regions are praised as "pyramids on

  the Loess Plateau"by World Bank officials and experts.

  2.We have combined management with development and achieved ecological,social and economic benefits.

  To build ecological agriculture by stopping soil erosion is a systematic projectinvolving environment and economy, the present and the future, the part and the whole, and many other contradictory elements. Only when we correctly handle the relationship between management and development and rationally allocate our resources can we get rid of the vicious circle on the yellow earth plateau, mobilize the enthusiasm of the broad masses and march from poverty to wealth. In the course of the management me integrated management with development and making money. While improving ecological environment and production conditions, we helped people out of poverty and tried to effect a steady and sustained development. We made efforts to realize three transitions, i.e. the transition from a unitary concern for ecological benefits to the integration of social, economic and ecologic results, the transition from sole concern for management to the combination of management with development and the transition from haphazard and separated management to concerted operation on the basis of river systems. We changed the old practice of being purely concerned with ecology and being somewhat apathetic to people's interests. This greatly aroused the public interest and stimulated their enthusiasm. For over a decade we have persevered in building terraced fields on hillsides so as to increase the basic farming land. The average area of farm land per person in the two regions of northern Shaanxi has reached more than 2 mu;600,000mu of irrigable farmland has been developed from the northern desert; nearly one-million-mu-large orchards of dates have been constructed along the Yellow River; one-million-mu base of apricot production and one-million-mu sheep breeding farm have been completed in the area of Baiyushan Hills; the 8-million-mu apple base has been formed in the gully areas of Weibei and the south of Northern Shaanxi. The whole pattern is "farmland on the hill top, fruit trees on hillsides, trees and grass in gullies and ravines and dams at the gully bottom".Yan'an Prefecture has achieved noticeable results in this comprehensive management. In 1998 people in the Prefecture each produce, over 500kg of grain and earn 1,356 yuan per person annually on an average. Of their income, the 4 leading industries(tobacco, fruits, sheep and potatoes) account for 68%.Roads and power have reached every village and program-controlled telephone is available in each township. The World Bank Chairman Wolfenson said:"Yan'an people have created wonders!"

  3.We have stuck to reform and opening up and used new input mechanism and policies to mobilize the initiative and enthusiasm of the broad masses.

  To speed up the management, policy is the gurantee and input is the Key. We have gradually set up a plural input system of multiple channels under which government input serves as guide, the public investment is the main body. social input is the supplement, finance and credit are combined, and domestic and overseas funds are used. In raising and managing funds, we firstly made good use of governmental input. For the government inputs into priority projects, we chose the advanced and best applicants with great enthusiasm. Secondly we made good use of local funds from the provincial, prefectural and county authorities. Unified management and concentrated use are exercised for such funds as are used for agricultural development, farmland compensation, assistance to the poor and water conservancy. Thirdly we did our utmost to collect money from the masses. Every able-bodied person should contribute 20-30 days of labor every year. Social funds are also collected by auctioning waste mountains and hillsides and by joint stock cooperatives. The auction of the right to use waste mountains and hillsides greatly stimulated the enthusiasm of peasants .So far over 16 million mu of waste land has been auctioned in the whole province and nearly half of it has been developed. More than 600,000 households of peasants or urbanites have participated in the development and over 2,700 departments and institutions have purchased the right to exploit waste mountains. Fourthly we introduced overseas funds. With the help of the state financial, planning and water conservancy departments, we have got a total of 410 million US dollars from the World Food Program and the World Bank. The money has been employed for the prevention of soil erosion along the Wuding, the Xingzi,the Yanhe and the Jialou Rivers and in the Qinba Mountains, where remarkable results are achieved.

  4.We have intensified the leadership by practicing the responsibility system and our resolve and policies have remained constant and consistent.

  It has been a consensus among leading cadres at all levels in the province that an official should not only help people get rich but also give due consideration the our future generations. The leaders of the provincial Party Committee and Government these years have all regarded it as a fundamental mission to construct ecological agriculture by stopping soil erosion. Since 1970s the Northern Shaanxi Construction Committee with the Provincial Party Secretaries as its Chairman has devoted lots of fund to speed up the management of the Loess Plateau. In the two prefectures of Yulin and Yan'an in northern Shaanxi the practical plans and measures have remained stable in spite of the change of leaders. Both the leading and the led, the Party and the government, the cadres and the broad masses work with one mind and put their strength together for the same purpose.

  Although we have made achievements these years in the management of the Loess Plateau, they still fall short of the requirements of environment and development. First, there is still a lot to be desired in the prevention of soil erosion. In our province there are 137,500 square kilometres of eroded land, accounting for over 68% of its total territory. Of the 138 counties in the middle reaches of the Yellow River whose soil erosion is worst in China, 48 are in the north and the Weibei region of our province. After decades of efforts the initially managed and treated areas are nearly 80,000 km2,but only about one half are really up to the standards. In future we have 107,500 km2 before us awaiting management, including those areas not up to the standards. So we have to quicken our pace. Second, theinput is still insufficient. To be frank,500,000 yuan is needed to manage each square kilometer up to standards, but the fact is that only 20,000 is put in. The deficiency is made up by the contribution of labor by volunteers. This has greatly affected the pace and quality. Third, the man made difficulty is new soil erosion caused by "destruction accompanying management".Fourth, it will be more difficult to manage in the future. These years we have managed the regions which are relatively easier to handle. What remains is poorer and more difficult. In the arid area to the north of Yan'an Prefecture where the yearly precipitation is only about 300 mm, it is very difficult to plant trees and grass. In August 1997,President Jiang Zemin gave the instruction of "building a northwest with beautiful mountains and rivers. This year he put forward the strategy of exploiting the west.Premier Zhu Rongji put forward the essential guideline of "returning grain plots to forestry,closing hillsides to facilitate afforestation, contractual management and providing grain as relief aid." In accordance with these instructions and in view of the specific conditions in Shaanxi, we have worked out an ecological environmental construction program for the province(i.e. the Beautiful Mountains & Rivers project Plan).The Program covers afforestation, water conservancy, hydraulic development, fight against desertification, pasture cultivation, ecological agriculture and protection of resources.We plan to work 11 years from present to the year 2010 to ensure a noticeable amelioration of agricultural conditions and eco-environment by afforestation, protecting woods, planting pastures, making wild mountains green and preventing loss of water and soil. By the time we will have set up a benign ecosystem for the exploitation of sustained development of the west. The forest covering rate will have increased from 28.8% to 43%; the woods coverage from 34.5% to 50.7%;pasture coverage will have reached 65.7%.500,000 people will have migrated to townships.3,100 million tons of silt will be stopped from flowing into rivers.97,900 km2 of eroded land will be thoroughly treated and managed with 91% up to standards. By then a relatively complete system of technological service, protection and ecological monitoring will be effected. Our goal is to establish a positive ecosystem conducive to the west exploitation and sustained development.

  To achieve the above goal, we are going to accomplish the following tasks.

  1.To adjust our mentality and work out and overall arrangement.

  Since it is a systematic project to return grain plots to forestry and to prevent soil erosion so as to improve eco-environment and build a beautiful Shaanxi, we should adjust our mentality on the basis of the program according to the requirements of the state and work out a practical overall plan. We should make special efforts to help draw up the implementing plans of counties, townships and village so as to set specific tasks and requirements for each ridge, each hill, each gully and each slope, each plot and each field. The implementation of the plans will materialize our goal of "green hills, clear water and wealthy people."

  2.To do a good job in farmland capital construction and adjust rural industrial structure so as to boost the return of grain plots to forestry(pasture).Our province plans to return 17 million mu of crop land with a gradient of over 25 to forestry or pasture by the end of the 10th 5-year-plan period. Therefore, to construct quality fundamental farmland and regulate and optimize agricultural structure are not only the prerequisites and material guarantee of feeding the population, increase the output and returning grain plots to forestry, but also important measures to enhance the efficiency of afforestation and grass cultivation. We will construct fundamental farmland of high quality on the principle of suiting measures to local conditions and in accordance with the goal of one mu per person in southern Shaanxi,1.5 to 2 mu per person in central Shaanxi and 2.5 to 3 mu in the northern province. We will continue to implement "the water project" and "the watersaving irrigation project"on the principle of "ponds for the south, water pits for the north and wells for the center".We will transform low and medium yielding land to ensure steady and high yield. We will construct economic fruit gardens which will be rationally distributed in the province. The plan of"planting grass, utilizing stalks and raising animals indoors" will be carried out so as to promote the growth of fruit industry and animal husbandry and increase their proportion. To prevent damage and destruction by human beings, we will persuade the scattered households living in natural forests or man made forests to migrate to townships by means of combining legal measures with economic ones. We will use the construction of farmland, adjustment of industrial structure and migration of households out of forests to boost the return of grain plots to forestry.Our goal is to grow grain and ail-bearing crops on plains, to plant trees and grass on hills and keep animals under shelter.

  3.To do a good job in ecological construction with the protection of natural forests as the key point. An overall ban on lumbering will be imposed to protect forests on the basis of strengthening legislation and improving policies. For waste slopes and hillsides which used to be grain plots, we will plant grass, bushes or arbor trees according to their ecological features. Such measures as closing hillsides for afforestation, aerial seeding and man planting trees will be employed to speed up afforestation. Tree nurseries will be built at the provincial, prefectural and county levels and fine breeds suitable for the place will be introduced so as to promote the survival rate and the preserving rate. Peasants will be trained in practical skills and demonstrations will be given to enhance the scientific and standardization level of tree planting. Perspetive studies on the construction of eco-environment will be carried out and modern technology will be used to establish the dynamic testing system of eco-environment and the protective system of forests and pastures. Besides, we will continue our work in the artificial interference in weather so as to create favorable condition for the survival of trees and grass.

  4.To improve our policies with an aim to mobilize the initiative of the masses. Land returned to forestry or pasture will be exempt from agricultural tax and the contract period of such land will be prolonged. Regulations on issuing grain as relief aid will be drawn up to see to it that every peasant get the grain in its full amount. The system of labor accumulation hours will be improved to reduce the burden of the peasants.

  5.To intensify the leadership and implement the responsibility system. We will practise a system of the chief administrator being in charge. Leading organizations and offices will be set up to take care of organizing, managing, coordinating, monitoring and examining the ecological projects. All departments should have the overall plan in mind and be responsible for their obligations. Their merits and demerits will be recorded. They should show initiative in the cooperative and concerted operations. Project bidding system, project legal person system and project supervision system will be established and improved to ensure quality. Contractors will be responsible for project quality all its service life. We will intensify the management and utilization of project funds by practicing the reimbursement system to improve the efficiency of the funds. We will see to it that this importan undertaking beneficial to both the state and the masses will be successfully accomplished.

  The deterioration of the ecological environment on the Loess Plateau the result of many decades and to change it is a long and arduous mission. But we are confident that we will surely achieve our goal of building a beautiful Shaanxi, for we have the Party leadership and the superior socialist system, we can rely on correct policies, technology and the broad masses and we will display the Yan'an spirit of hard work and self reliance.

  Many thanks!

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