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Newsletter (March)



  The Outline of the Tenth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development (2001-2005) adopted at the recent annual meeting of the National People's Congress in March, attached unprecedented importance to environmental protection and sustainable development.

  The new five-year plan sets the entire nation to push forward the pace of reform and opening up at the beginning of the new century. It lays emphasis on development featuring a fairly speedy growth with high quality and efficiency. This sends a clear signal that sustainable development will be the focus and that market rules are to take centre stage of the country's economic activities.

  Not only a whole part with three chapters is devoted to population, resources and environmental protection, but for the first time, environmental goals and the sustainable development strategy have been included in the overall objectives and guiding principles of the Tenth Five-Year Plan.

  The overall goals for environmental and sustainable development set in the plan are: by 2005, the population growth rate will have been controlled at 0.09% or lower, and the total population under 1.33 billion; the deterioration of ecological environment will have been halted; the forest coverage will have reached 18.2% and greening coverage in urban areas 35%; urban environmental quality will have substantially been improved; emissions of major pollutants will have reduced by 10% of the 2000 level; and resource conservation will have achieved great progress.

  Premier Zhu Rongji in his report on the outline of the new five-year plan at the NPC pledged to bring about a more harmonious development of population, resources and environment and place the sustainable development strategy in a more prominent position.

  The plan urged more efforts toward better family planning in the rural areas and among the floating population; establishing an interest-oriented family planning mechanism and at the same time developing a caring system for senior citizens.

  On the issues of protecting natural resources and using them rationally, the plan called for the protection and proper use of valuable resources such as fresh water, farmland and energy in accordance with the law. He also suggested establishing a system of reserves for strategically important mineral resources to ensure their safe supply. He stressed comprehensive development, utilization and conservation of marine resources should be strengthened.

  Regarding ecological conservation, the plan calls for greater efforts to complete natural forest protection projects on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River and to intensify the building of shelterbelt system in Northeast, North and Northwest China and on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

  On environmental protection, China is expected to launch comprehensive pollution control projects along the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Songhuajiang River in the next five years. By 2005, 45 percent of urban sewage water is expected to be treated, and 60 percent of industrial wastewater recycled. SO2 emissions in the acid rain and SO2 control zones are required to be reduced by 20% from the 2000 level.

  The development of western regions, a major project on the five-year plan, also gives priority to ecological conservation.


  A recent report issued by the State Statistics Bureau indicated that China has reduced the discharge amount of 12 major pollutants by 10 - 15% since 1995. The reduction took place as China gained rapid economic growth in spite of high population pressure, backward industrial technologies and less developed urban infrastructure, said the report.

  China launched its largest ever environmental protection campaign in 1996 to reduce industrial pollution nationwide and improve air and water quality in the country's major cities.

  Under the campaign, the discharge amount of 12 major pollutants should be reduced to designated levels by 2000, and all of the 230,000 polluting industrial enterprises must meet the industrial pollution emission standards set by the central and local governments or face closure.

  According to an official from the State Environmental Protection Administration, the primary goal of the campaign has been achieved. The report by the State Statistics Bureau showed that more than 90% of those polluting factories have reached the emission standards. Some 93.6% of 18,000 heavily polluting factories, which produced 65% of the country's industrial pollution passed the check.

  The campaign also aimed to make the quality of air and water in residential and industrial districts in 46 major cities reach the respective standards set by the central government. The 46 cities are four municipalities directly under the central government, and provincial capital cities, coastal open cities and cities designated as major tourist destinations. To date, 33 cities have met the standards on water quality, and 22 cities for air quality.

  Lead-free gasoline has been used nationwide since July 1, 2000, which will contribute to preventing 1,500 tons of lead from discharging into the air.

  The government promoted pollution control programs in heavily-polluted three rivers and three lakes around the country in the past five years. In these areas, 55 sewage treatment plants have been built and another 111 are under construction.

  With respect to ecological conservation, 1,227 natural reserves have covered about one-tenth of the nation's territory of a total acreage of 98.2 million hectares. During the past years, the country has planted 46 million hectares of trees, and the forest coverage rate in the country has reached 16.55%.

  However, the environment in China is still deteriorating. Pollution in rural areas is given attention, but protection work is relatively weak due to the lack of technologies and human resources. In urban areas, the pollution coming from daily life has increased. The discharges of sewage has now exceeded industrial discharges.

  The government hopes to achieve further 10 percent reduction of the discharges of 12 major pollutants during the Tenth Five-Year plan period (2001-2005), and will contribute 1.2% of its gross domestic product to environmental protection spending, which represents a remarkable rise over the average of 0.93% in the Ninth Five-Year Plan.


  The Working Group on Energy Strategies and Technologies convened an international seminar on power market quota policy for renewable energy in Sanya City on February 14-15. The meeting was chaired by Professor Yang Jike and was attended by officials from the State Development and Planning Commission, the State Economic and Trade Commission, the Ministry of Sciences, the Ministry of Finance, the State Power Corporation and representatives from some international organizations.

  After the two-day presentations and discussion, the meeting reached the following consensus: 1) developing renewable energy sources is now an irreversible trend; 2) it is practical to develop wind power and small hydro power in China; 3) barriers and solutions for developing wind power are thoroughly elaborated at the meeting; and 4) it is recommended that China should clearly define its goals for wind power development within the next 5-10 years, promote demonstration projects of wind power, and study and demonstrate strategies for renewable energy development in Phase III of the China Council.

  The Task Force on Forest and Grassland undertook a preliminary investigation of the implementation of forest restoration from land, and natural forest conservation projects and their social and economic impacts in Ningxia and Guizhou from February 15 to March 3. Starting from March 7, eight research institutions have been entrusted to undertake broader investigation and case studies on the above issues in the great western regions. These eight organizations are Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, Sichuan Academy of Social Science, the Academy of Forestry, Inner Mongolia University of Agriculture, Gansu Research Institute for Grassland Ecology, and Xinjiang University of Agriculture. The Cleaner Production Working Group held its eighth meeting in Sanya City on March 22-25. The meeting discussed cleaner production demonstration projects and the work plan for the working group before the completion of Phase II of the China Council.

  The Sustainable Agriculture Working Group is now undertaking a field study on integrated land and water resources management and sustainable agriculture development in the rapidly developed coastal areas of the Pearl River Delta region and the Yangtze River Delta region from March 25 to April 8. During this period, the working group will also be convening its meeting and an international workshop on integrated land and water resources management in China's coastal areas on April 5-6. NEWS BRIEFS 

  China to launch South-to-North Water Project 

  To quench the thirst of its north regions, China is to launch a multi-billion-dollar South-to-North Water Diversion Project during the Tenth Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005). The project is to divert water of the Yangtze River in the south to thirsty areas in the north, and save the Yellow River from drying up. The thirsty areas to benefit from the project have one-third of China's total population, gross national product, farmland and grain output.

  According to the draft plan of the south-to-north water project, it would annually divert 38 to 48 billion cubic metres of water to the north. When the project is completed, the annual diversion will be equal to the annual run-off of the Yellow River.

  However, concerns have been raised about environmental impacts of the diversion project. The government has promised to take necessary measures to minimize the adverse environmental impacts on the area surrounding the planned south-to-north water diversion project.

  Beijing Leads in Pollution Control 

  Beijing took the lead among all the large and medium-sized cities in China to make its industrial pollutant discharge reach the state designated levels. Of all the 25,000 Beijing-based enterprises, more than 5,000 firms were regarded as pollution sources in the city. So far, all these 5,000 enterprises have reduced their pollution discharge to meet the standards set by the central and local governments.

  Over the past three years, Beijing has raised 4.4 billion yuan to remove 53 polluting enterprises out of the downtown area and rebuild pollution-control facilities in about 790 enterprises. On-line pollution supervision systems have also been set up to undertake a round-the-clock check on the performance of these enterprises.

  With all these continuous efforts, Beijing's air quality for 85 percent of the days in 2000 reached Level III standards, and 45 percent of the days reached higher than Level II standards. (People's Daily Online 03/20/2001)

  Jilin Strikes on Illegal Felling 

  Jilin Province has recently carried out a crackdown on illegally felling trees in forests and hunting to protect its virgin forest and wildlife in the province.

  The police has arrested, in the past three months, members of 76 criminal gangs, and confiscated 3, 782 cubic meters of timber with a value of at least 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million).

  The province has a vast amount of black soil and virgin forest and is becoming a lucrative business for illegal tree fellers. (People's Daily Online 03/19/2001)

  Tianjin to Start 10 Greening Projects 

  China's port city Tianjin will launch ten greening projects this year to improve its urban environment. The ten projects include a windbreak forest, an ecological-protection forest, a green corridor and several seashore and river-bank greening projects. These projects will add more than 30,000 hectares of trees and grass to Tianjin. Located in relatively ecologically backward northern China, Tianjin is now facing severe environmental challenges for which the planned greening projects are expected to have great significance. (People's Daily Online 03/13/2001)

  China Hit by Sandstorms 

  Strong winds filled with dust particles swept across many parts of northern and western China in March. So far, a dozen of provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in western, northern and even some parts of central China have been struck by windstorms with floating dust several times.

  The Chinese Central Meteorological Station estimated that China will see worse dusty weather this year than that in the previous years. This type of weather is mainly caused by the frequent movement of strong winds over Inner Mongolia and the dryness brought on by rising temperatures in the spring, making surface soil easily blown away.

  Some Chinese experts noted that sandstorms could be prevented by effective afforestation. They cited the example of the Huaihe River valley in central and east China. Due to special geological conditions, the Huaihe River valley has many sandstorms in the 1950s and 1960s. With vigorous efforts in afforestation in the past years, the region has almost wiped out sandstorms.

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