China eases burden on ecologically fragile areas
Last Updated: 2013-11-15 23:51 | Xinhua
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China's central authorities have decided not to press local governments located in ecologically fragile areas to pursue economic growth regardless of environment deterioration.

A key reform roadmap released by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Friday said governments of some ecologically fragile and poverty-stricken areas will be free from assessment of their economic performance.

China's central government traditionally assesses the performance of local authorities mainly through economic indices like gross domestic product (GDP).

Some local governments have sacrificed the environment for better GDP figures, with weak supervision of polluters and less spending on environmental protection.

China will also register the ownership of rivers, forest, mountains, grassland, desert and beaches and put them under clear and effective supervision, said the CPC Central Committee's decision on issues concerning comprehensively deepening reforms, adopted by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on Tuesday.

While explaining the decision at the session, President Xi Jinping noted that some problems in the country's environmental drive stemmed from the unclear responsibilities and interests of individuals or groups that manage state-owned natural resources as assets.

Xi stressed that strengthened management over the ownership of natural resources as assets is essential for a sound eco-civilization system.

According to the decision, a national park system will be set up and the development and protection of national land will be strictly in accordance with the functions set for each piece of land.

Also, a monitoring and warning system will be set up concerning the loading capacity of the natural environment, and limitations will be imposed on the development of regions where water and land resources, environmental capacity and oceanic resources are overloaded.

Reforms will be accelerated concerning the pricing of natural resource products so as to fully reflect market supply and demand, rarity of resources, costs of environmental damage and the rehabilitation benefits, said the decision.

People must pay to use natural resources and those resulting in environmental damage must compensate, said the decision, adding that a resource tax will be imposed on the use of all forms of ecological space.

Additionally, farmland in seriously polluted regions should be transformed for other uses.

Prices of land for industrial use will be increased while a market mechanism to encourage the investment of social capital in environmental protection will be built, according to the decision.

China's environment authority will tighten up monitoring of all pollutants and set up an environmental protection and pollution control system that integrates both land and water areas and coordinates efforts of multiple regions.

"Mountains, water, forest, farmland and lakes are all parts of a common living circle... the administration of their use and ecological rehabilitation must be in accordance with the law of nature," Xi said.

According to Xi, attending to only parts of the environment is likely to result in the loss of other aspects and might ultimately lead to ecological destruction, and an integrated effort to protect and rehabilitate all parts of the circle at once is crucial.

The decision also calls for improved operation and management for state-owned forestry as well as compensation from and punishment for those damaging the environment.


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