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General Planning to Facilitate the Ecological and Environmental Development in the Western Region

2000-11-02author:Li Yucaisource:

  Mr. Chairman, Council Members, Ladies and Gentlemen:

  First of all, on behalf of the State Forestry Administration, please allow me to c ongratulate on the opening of the 4thmeeting of the 2ndChina Council for International Cooperation in Environment and Development (CCICED). Now I w ould like to present briefly about the overall planning of the Chinese governmen t to facilitate the ecological and environmental development in the western regi on. 

  1. Significance of facilitating ecological and environ mental conservation and development in the western region

  The Party's Central Committee and the State Council have made the strategic deci sion to carry out development in the western region, which covers 2/3 of the tota l land area and 1/4 of the nation's population. As a key component and core constr uction goal in the strategy for western region development, facilitation of ecolo gical environment conservation and construction is of importantly practical and far-reaching historical significance. 

  1. 1 Ecological environment development is the fundamental and b reakthrough point of the western region development strategy

  In history, the western region was once a place with abundant water, pasture and f orest resources and prosperous economy and culture. The forest in the western reg ion has been devastated for a long period of time due to adverse natural conditi ons and economic, social and historic constraints. Many localities have turned ba rren and some have lost the basic conditions for production ad livelihood. The ev er-deteriorating ecological environment has been the key factor restraining econ omic development in the western region. The priority for the development and pros perity of western region is to solve environment problems. Rehabilitation of fore st and grass, control of water and soil erosion to speed up of protection and dev elopment of the ecological environment are the hope of the strategy of Western R egion Development. Only with substantially improved ecological environment in the western region, can the investment environment be improved, foreign fund , technol ogy, human resources and information be introduced, rich resources be duly develo ped and utilized, sustainable development in the western region be realized and d evelopment space of the Chinese nation be expanded. 

  1. 2 Accelerating ecological and environmental development is an urgent task to harness permanently the Yangtze River and the Yellow River

  The total water and soil erosion area in China is currently over 3. 60 million sq uare kilometers of which the western region takes up 80%. The total desertified a rea in China is 1. 69 million square kilometers of which the western region takes up 95%. At present, the rate of desertification is still expanding by 2460 square kilometers per annum and the majority is in the western region, adversely affect ing one third of the country's land area and the production and livelihood of mo re than 400 million people. Due to water and soil erosion along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, over 2 billion tons of mud and sand e nter into the Yangtze River and the Yellow River each year, resulting in siltatio n in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and t he Yellow River. The siltation has not only aggravated inundation of the lower re aches of the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, but also the draught in the nort hern part of China. The ever-deteriorating ecological environment has not only co nstrained to a substantial extent the economic and social development of the wes tern region but also caused a severe threat to the existence and development of the Chinese nation. Fundamental improvement of the deteriorating environment to e nhance protection and development of ecological environment has become an urgent task. 

  1. 3 Acceleration of ecological Development is important to erad icate poverty, to guarantee the unity of nationalities and to reinforce national defense

  Most of the western region are poverty stricken areas with ethnic communities. Th erefore, improvement of the ecological environment along the upper reaches of Yan gtze River and the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River is of great sign ificance to promote local economic and social development, increase land producti vity, improve drought and flood control capability and optimize the allocation of agricultural production elements. It, therefore, promotes the restructuring of ru r al economic system in the west and increases rural people's income, reduces the g ap between eastern and western development and accelerates common prosperity of the whole country. 

  1. 4 Time has come to enhance the over-all western environmental development

  Development and management of the ecological environment in the western region r equires large amount of financial input and solid material foundation. At present , China has relatively surplus grain supply, which provides important conditions a nd historic opportunity for the National Programme to Convert Slop Farmland to F orests(Grassland). In the long run, Environmental improvement will result in incre ase of crop yield in plain areas and along the middle and lower reaches of the r i vers, thus will supplement grain subsidy for the National Programme to Convert Sl op Farmland to Forests(Grassland)and will lead to a favorable circle for nationa l agriculture production, increase domestic demand and promote economical develop ment. 

  2. Overall Planning for the implementation of western ecological development

  The main activities for western ecological development are as follows:

  — Afforestation programs, mainly consisting of Natural Forest Conservation Progra m, forest rehabilitation on wastelands suitable for afforestation and grass growi ng, and conversion of slope farmland to forest(grass);

  — Desertification combating programme in windy, sandy and arid areas in th e Northwest, northern part of the central north and western part of the northeast . 

  2. 1 To launch ecosystem development projects in the upper reach es of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River to improve the ecosystems in the regions, reduce water and soil erosion and damage f rom flooding

  2. 1. 1 Trial demonstration for the National Programme to Convert Slope Farmland to Forests(grassland) in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River

  In 2000, the trial demonstration for conversion of slope farmland to forest (gras sland) has been conducted in 174 counties selected from 13 Provinces (Autonomous Regions/Municipalities)located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and th e upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. It is expected that a series of e ffective and practical policies, measures and methods will be achieved through th e trial demonstration in different regions with different natural conditions to lay a better foundation for stable development of the project in a planned manne r by steps. It is planned that, in the year of 2000, about 343333 hectares of slope farmland shall be converted into forestland (grassland) and planted, meanwhile 4 32000 hectares of barren hills suitable for plantations shall be planted with t rees and grass according the principle of planted area double or triple the conv erted area. The number of provinces involved in the project has increased to 17 b y joining in of Hunan, Hebei, Heilongjiang and Jilin Provinces, the area of farmlan d to be converted and the area of barren hills to be planted in 2000 in increase d by 33333 hectares and 35333 hectares respectively. 

  The policies for the project are are follows:

  — To provide free grain subsidies for farmers converting farmland into fo restland (grassland). The standard of grain provision is different, The annual pro vision is 4500 kg per hectare in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and 3000 kg in the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. The fund for purchasing the grain, which is priced at 0. 7RMB per kilogram, will be provided by the cen tral government and the transportation fee, which is set at 0. 1 RMB per kilogram will be provided by local government. Those who convert farmland into cash tree crops enjoy grain subsidies for 5 years and those who convert farmland into ecologica l tree plantation enjoy grain subsidies for 8 years. Thereafter, the length of gra in subsidies will be determined according to farmers' income. If the subsidies ar e really needed, it will last as long as possible. 

  — To provide cash subsidies for farmers converting their farmland. To sust ain the daily life of the farmers, who convert their farmland into forestland (gr a ssland), the State will provide them with cash subsidies at a rate of 300RMB/hect are/year in a certain period. 

  — To adopt contract system. In line with the principle of "Those who plan t are responsible for maintenance and benefit", farmers who have converted their farmland into forest (grassland) are greatly encouraged and supported to manage wasteland and hills. The tree and grass planting and their maintenance will be c ontracted to families and individuals, the contract term will be extended to 50 y ears. 

  — To encourage farmers to plant more than their conversion. If conditions permit, besides planting on the converted farmland, farmers are encouraged to pla nt trees or grass on barren hills suitable for tree growing and the area planted on barren hills shall be twice or more than converted farmland. 

  — To adopt reimbursement system. The State will provide grain and cash sub sidies for farmers in installments according to the process and quality of the c onversion and maintenance of tree plantations. 

  2. 1. 2 Natural Forest Protection Program in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River

  It is planned to launch natural forest protection program in 13 provinces (Auton omous Regions/Municipalities) located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. The tasks of the program ar e as follows:

  — To ban logging of natural forest of 30. 67 million hectares in the progr am area and strengthen maintenance, meanwhile to effective manage another 30. 67 m illion hectares of forests by taking measures of mountain closure, setting up che ckpoint and individual contract. By the end of 2000, the consumption of forest res ources in the program area will be reduced by 70 percent. 

  — To overall rehabilitate vegetation by closing wasteland and hills for f orest and grass regeneration, air sowing and artificial planting. It is planned th at 13. 33 million hectares of tree plantations will be established. 

  — To reemploy 256, 000 surplus forest workers and solve the insurance of 1 50, 000 retired workers. 

  2. To organize and carry out the National Programme to Combat De sertification in those sandy and arid areas in the northwest, northern part of ce ntral north and western part of the northeast so as to control the expansion of land desertification

  The priority of the National Programme to Combat Desertification shall be laid o n the six large deserts and three desertified lands as well as their surrounding regions according to the status quo of land desertification situation in China and its degree of damage, and shall be in line with the overall requirements of n ational land improvement and national economic development, in the meantime, speci al attention shall also be paid to the sandy area at the lower reaches of the Ye llow River. The controlled area covers 338 counties in 14 provinces(autonomous re gions, municipalities). The key areas include Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei Province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Shanxi Province. The tasks of the programme devel opment are as follows:first, to bring the existing natural vegetation under sound p rotection in the those regions that deserts are still expanding, and to establish a wind and sand breaks with an appropriate composition of trees, shrubs and gras ses to check the expansion and invasion of deserts;secondly, to set up a wind bre ak and sand fixation network combining trees, shrubs and grasses in those already desertified regions to check the expansion of shifting sand, meanwhile, to carry out a large scale integrated control for wider living space of mankind and real izing the trend of "man advances while desert retreats". It is planned that 270 million mu will be brought under control by the year 2010, of which 81 million mu is for vegetation protection, 190 million mu for plantation establishment. 

  The great development of the western region is an arduous task still has a long way to go. I hope all countries and international organizations concerned worldw id e can pay your close attention to China's ecosystem development and the strategy of western region development. We are looking forward to extensive and wider-sco pe cooperation with foreign countries and international organizations

  Thank you

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