Pol­lu­tion among con­cerns ad­dressed

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - POLICY REVIEW - By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG zhangzhoux­i­ang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In a ma­jor step to im­prove the na­tional ecol­ogy, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has pro­mul­gated a new plan to boost wet­land preser­va­tion and restora­tion, es­pe­cially nat­u­ral wet­lands.

By 2020, the coun­try is tar­get­ing the preser­va­tion of no less than 53.3 mil­lion hectares of wet­lands, in­clud­ing 46.7 mil­lion hectares of nat­u­ral wet­lands, ac­cord­ing to a plan re­leased last week by the State Coun­cil, China’s cabi­net.

Wet­lands are a cru­cial part of the coun­try’s eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion, con­cern­ing the na­tion’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and the wel­fare of the Chi­nese peo­ple and younger gen­er­a­tions, the plan said.

Ac­cord­ing to the plan, a new mech­a­nism will be in­tro­duced to bal­ance the acreage of wet­lands by cre­at­ing a new area of wet­land of com­par­a­tive size when one is lost to ur­ban con­struc­tion.

Mean­while, pro­tec­tion of wet­lands will be en­com­passed into the eval­u­a­tion sys­tem for lo­cal govern­ments, which an­a­lysts said will en­cour­age lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to mon­i­tor them bet­ter. A re­ward and pun­ish­ment sys­tem will be es­tab­lished and this will see any of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for dam­ag­ing wet­lands traced and pun­ished even if they have left their orig­i­nal of­fice. Those who have dam­aged wet­lands must re­pair the area and could face jail for any crimes or vi­o­la­tions they may have com­mit­ted.

The plan stip­u­lated that wet­lands should be pre­served to keep wa­ter qual­ity in more than 80 per­cent of rivers and lakes higher than the re­quired stan­dard with com­bined ef­forts from the cen­tral and lo­cal govern­ments.

This marks the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s lat­est move on eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion since it pro­mul­gated a guide­line on the sub­ject in Septem­ber last year. Since 2008, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has is­sued a num­ber of doc­u­ments em­pha­siz­ing wet­land pro­tec­tion and has set goals for wet­land pro­tec­tion in the an­nual Gov­ern­ment Work Re­port.

Ac­cord­ing to a na­tional sur­vey in 2014 by the State Forestry Ad­min­is­tra­tion, the coun­try has 53.6 mil­lion hectares of wet­land, ac­count­ing for 5.58 per­cent of China’s ter­ri­tory. China’s wet­lands rank, in area, as the largest in Asia and fourth-largest in the world. The tar­geted acreage of wet­lands is al­ready lower than the fig­ure two years ago.

In April last year, the China Wet­land Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion was es­tab­lished as a na­tional agency to over­see the coun­try’s 46 in­ter­na­tion­ally-renowned wet­land preser­va­tion sites, more than 570 nat­u­ral wet­lands and more than 900 wet­land parks, cov­er­ing 23 mil­lion hectares. Wet­lands are re­garded as “the earth’s kid­ney” for their pu­ri­fy­ing abil­ity for both wa­ter and air. China, now the world’s largest ex­porter of goods, has over the past five years ex­pe­ri­enced heavy pol­lu­tion of wa­ter and air, sim­i­lar to what the United King­dom and the United States ex­pe­ri­enced decades ago.

The on­go­ing smog has blan­keted more than 700,000 square kilo­me­ters of land in China, with schools in Bei­jing closed from Mon­day to Wed­nes­day over con­cerns re­gard­ing stu­dents’ health. Mean­while, in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion has con­sumed an ex­tremely large amount of wa­ter, in­clud- ing that ex­tracted from un­der­ground. These sce­nar­ios have seen the gov­ern­ment and the pub­lic ac­cel­er­at­ing ef­forts to pro­tect “the earth’s kid­ney”.

It’s vi­tally ur­gent to clar­ify a bot­tom line for wet­land acreage as much has been dam­aged by the en­croach­ment of farm­land and ur­ban con­struc­tion in the past 50 years, said Ma Jun, direc­tor of the In­sti­tute of Pub­lic & En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion in Bei­jing

Many wet­lands don’t have own­ers and, hence, are more vul­ner­a­ble than farm­lands that have been con­tracted to farm­ers. Some wet­lands have been al­tered to com­pen­sate for farm­lands that were sub­ject to ur­ban ex­pan­sion, par­tic­u­larly ex­em­pli­fied by those near river banks in North­east China or coastal ar­eas in East China’s Jiangsu prov­ince, Ma said.

Ma’s view­point was echoed by Wang Yang, a 33-year-old em­ployee at a wet­land preser­va­tion site in He­fei, cap­i­tal of An­hui prov­ince. Wang said the plan will in­ject greater en­thu­si­asm in lo­cal govern­ments un­der the new eval­u­a­tion sys­tem. “Now eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors are im­por­tant for lo­cal govern­ments, but it will be a lot eas­ier for wet­land pro­tec­tion if a rank­ing sys­tem for wet­lands is in­tro­duced for lo­cal govern­ments,” Wang said.

Min­istries and State Coun­cil de­part­ments have re­sponded to a num­ber of pub­lic and me­dia con­cerns over the past week. One that at­tracted the most at­ten­tion is the on­go­ing heavy pol­lu­tion over Bei­jing, Tian­jin, He­bei and nearby prov­inces, for which Bei­jing and sev­eral other cities have al­ready is­sued red alerts.

The Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion said their mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem had forecast heavy pol­lu­tion weeks ago and had al­ready sent of­fi­cial warn­ings to the govern­ments of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and prov­inces af­fected. The min­istry shared in­for­ma­tion with the pro­vin­cial-level govern­ments, and re­quired them to is­sue alerts in time.

The min­istry also said they had sent 13 in­spec­tion teams to the cities af­fected, to check whether they have taken the nec­es­sary mea­sures to fight heavy pol­lu­tion, such as lim­it­ing ve­hi­cles and curb­ing en­ter­prises pro­duc­ing ex­ces­sive emis­sions.

They said mea­sures. to en­sure clean air need the par­tic­i­pa­tion of ev­ery­one in so­ci­ety and called for the pub­lic to take action in main­tain­ing the air qual­ity.

teams

have been sent by the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion to check whether the cities af­fected by the on­go­ing heavy air pol­lu­tion have taken the nec­es­sary mea­sures.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in­tro­duced to jour­nal­ists their re­cently an­nounced K12 ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards for dis­abled chil­dren. It is the first stan­dard sys­tem of its kind for pupils with dis­abil­i­ties, a spokesper­son said on Jan 13.

The stan­dards cover 42 sub­jects, of which 18 are for the vis­ually im­paired, 14 are for those with im­paired hear­ing, and 10 are for pupils with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

They in­clude the philoso­phies, ob­jec­tives and pro­pos­als for the cour­ses these pupils should re­ceive.

The schools for these chil­dren should con­sider both the K12 ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards and their spe­cial needs, the spokesper­son said, adding that the do­mes­tic phi­los­o­phy of ed­u­ca­tion for dis­abled chil­dren has im­proved with time.

Some driv­ers place an ETC card at the cor­ner of their wind­shield, which can pay for high­way tolls au­to­mat­i­cally upon be­ing scanned by the cam­era at high­way en­trances. How­ever, re­cent re­ports say that some il­le­gal gangs stole money from the cards by scan­ning them on parked cars with por­ta­ble POS ma­chines.

Union Pay, a pay­ment al­liance formed by most ma­jor do­mes­tic banks, re­sponded that the scam does not ap­ply to all ETC cards, as only those linked with quick pass bank­ing ac­counts are vul­ner­a­ble, be­cause such ac­counts can pay with­out the card holder’s sig­na­ture.

Union Pay ad­vised ETC card hold­ers not to link their cards with quick pass bank­ing ac­counts, and to re­move any linked cards from their ve­hi­cles when park­ing.

The China Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­plained its re­cently an­nounced pol­icy of strength­en­ing su­per­vi­sion over food safety in kinder­gartens and pri­mary and sec­ondary schools.

It re­quires its agen­cies at all lev­els na­tion­wide to in­spect the can­teens of pri­mary and sec­ondary schools and kinder­gartens, and pro­hibit com­pa­nies with­out ap­proval from fur­ther run­ning the can­teens.

LI MIN / CHINA DAILY

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