Pollution among concerns addressed
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.
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.