Sha Zukang: Build­ing a Green Silk Road Is a Com­mon Re­spon­si­bil­ity

China Today (English) - - CONTENTS - By staff re­porters LI WUZHOU & ZHOU LIN

The rise and fall of the an­cient Silk Road is in fact a his­tory of eco­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion. It is of fun­da­men­tal and prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance in build­ing a green Silk Road which is also the con­sen­sus of coun­tries along it.

IN an exclusive in­ter­view dur­ing the Fifth Kubuqi In­ter­na­tional Desert Fo­rum, former Un­der Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral for Eco­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs and Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral of the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment ( Rio+ 20) Sha Zhukang talked with our staff re­porters about the Silk Road and the is­sue of de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion con­trol. In his view, build­ing a Green Silk Road is the com­mon re­spon­si­bil­ity of all coun­tries.

Hu­man Ac­tiv­i­ties Se­ri­ously Un­der­mine Green Re­sources

Sha Zukuang en­dorsed the fo­rum’s cen­tral theme, “Desert Eco­log­i­cal Civ­i­liza­tion and Co- Build­ing Silk Roads” as highly con­sis­tent with the de­mands of our times, and with the in­ter­ests of sev­eral bil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in scores of coun­tries along the Silk Road.

Sha ob­served that the an­cient Silk Road was for mil­len­nia an artery run­ning through the Eurasian land­mass that linked the four an­cient civ­i­liza­tions of Me­sopotamia, Egypt, China, and In- dia with those of Greece, and Rome. For more than 2,000 years coun­tries along the Silk Road re­cip­ro­cally fos­tered open trade, de­vel­op­ment and win-win co­op­er­a­tion, the fruits of which were mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial ex­changes of goods, peo­ple, tech­nol­ogy, and ideas.

“Ar­guably, the an­cient Silk Road is a road of ex­changes be­tween civ­i­liza­tions, a road of com­merce and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, and at the same time a road of peace and friend­ship. It has fa­cil­i­tated di­a­logues and ex­changes be­tween civ­i­liza­tions and also their in­te­gra­tion, so ad­vanc­ing the greater pros­per­ity and de­vel­op­ment of all coun­tries and eth­nic groups along the way. The Silk Road rep­re­sents a glo­ri­ous chap­ter in the an­nals of hu­man his­tory,” Sha said.

Sha also ex­pressed his dis­tress at the wars, over- ex­ploita­tion, and other hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties since that have so se­ri­ously un­der­mined green re­sources along the Silk Road.

“There has been se­ri­ous degra­da­tion of what was for­merly fer­tile land around the an­cient Silk Road, due to wide­spread de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion. Rag­ing sand­storms have oblit­er­ated the an­cient towns of Shuo­fang and Loulan, and buried an­cient Baby­lon, turn­ing these orig­i­nally thriv­ing hubs into ghost towns. The an­cient Silk Road, once so vi­brant and re­sound­ing with the clang of camel bells, has been trans­formed into a des­o­late, silent waste­land,” Sha said.

He added that this sober­ing re­al­ity should act as a warn­ing to the world that no civ­i­liza­tion can sur­vive, let alone achieve sus­tain­able eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and main­tain peo­ple’s liveli­hoods, with­out a fer­tile eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

“The Silk Road Must Be Green”

The Chi­nese govern­ment has put for­ward the “Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive” in ef­forts to op­ti­mize de­vel­op­ment space and pro­mote in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion, and to pro­mote a new re­gional eco­nomic land­scape.

China aims to work with other coun­tries along the Belt and Road to build an open, in­clu­sive, bal­anced frame­work of re­gional eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion that is of ben­e­fit to all and which helps rel­e­vant states to form a win- win “com­mu­nity of shared in­ter­ests” and a pros­per­ous

“com­mu­nity of shared des­tiny.”

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive en­com­passes 65 coun­tries and a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of about 4.4 bil­lion in its in­ner and outer re­gions. It gen­er­ates an eco­nomic out­put of around US $ 21 tril­lion, the Belt ac­count­ing for 63 per­cent and the Road for 29 per­cent of world to­tals. It thus con­sti­tutes the world’s most promis­ing eco­nomic belt.

Jointly build­ing the Belt and Road is of fun­da­men­tal and prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance in ad­vanc­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the global econ­omy. It will con­trib­ute to erad­i­cat­ing poverty and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of peo­ple’s lives, to less­en­ing re­gional strife and con­flict be­tween states, and to re­sist­ing ter­ror­ist at­tacks – these are our com­mon goals. Fur­ther­more, the ini­tia­tive will help pro­vide new and ad­di­tional chan­nels and plat­forms whereby coun­tries along the Belt and Road may safe­guard na­tional in­ter­ests, main­tain re­gional sta­bil­ity, pro­mote good- neigh­borly friend­ship, en­hance po­lit­i­cal mu­tual trust, and strengthen friendly ex­changes.

Sha Zukang spoke of the con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ences in nat­u­ral and ge­o­graph­i­cal con­di­tions among coun­tries along the Silk Road. Most are land­locked and plagued with drought, de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion and other chal­lenges. China’s western re­gions are an ex­am­ple. Many coun­tries in the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia also face se­ri­ous eco­log­i­cal prob­lems, in­clud­ing fall­ing wa­ter ta­bles, de­graded grass­land veg­e­ta­tion, atro­phy of wet­lands, and a con­se­quent loss of bio­di­ver­sity.

“These eco­log­i­cal con­di­tions are too frag­ile to serve as a solid eco­log­i­cal ba­sis for sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the Silk Road. There­fore, build­ing the Belt and Road de­mands, first and fore­most, con­certed ef­forts to tackle these eco­log­i­cal crises. It is the com­mon re­spon­si­bil­ity of all coun­tries along the Silk Road to build a Green Silk Road, and to put in place a frame­work for pur­su­ing a green econ­omy,” Sha Zukang said.

Mul­ti­ple Eco­log­i­cal De­vel­op­ment Forces

Sha raised sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions for con­sid­er­a­tion. The first was to speed up the estab­lish­ment of an ex­change and co­op­er­a­tion mech­a­nism to strengthen eco­log­i­cal con­struc­tion. To this end, we must con­stantly strengthen di­a­logue, ex­changes, and prag­matic co­op­er­a­tion with coun­tries along the Belt and Road on eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion, and set up an ef­fec­tive co­op­er­a­tion mech­a­nism with a view to es­tab­lish­ing a global coali­tion of eco­log­i­cal gov­er­nance. In par­tic­u­lar, it is vi­tal to es­tab­lish plat­forms like the Kubuqi In­ter­na­tional Desert Fo­rum where coun­tries can share eco­log­i­cal man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence, show­case eco­log­i­cal man­age­ment tech­nolo­gies, scale up suc­cesses in green civ­i­liza­tion, and in­crease green aid for eco­log­i­cally frag­ile coun­tries.

Sec­ond, we should con­tinue to strengthen tech­no­log­i­cal co­op­er­a­tion to­wards de­vel­op­ing eco­log­i­cal in­dus-

Jointly build­ing the Belt and Road is of fun­da­men­tal and prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance in ad­vanc­ing sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the global econ­omy.

tries. “Eco­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment re­quires tech­no­log­i­cal sup­port. Eco­log­i­cally frag­ile ar­eas should be en­cour­aged to learn from ad­vanced eco­log­i­cal man­age­ment ex­per­tise and ex­pe­ri­ence, to in­tro­duce and cre­ate large scale in­no­va­tive ecotech­nolo­gies, and to ap­ply them to ba­sic pro­duc­tive sec­tors, es­pe­cially wa­ter-sav­ing agriculture, smart an­i­mal hus­bandry, and in­te­grated eco­log­i­cal in­dus­tries. Such in­te­grated ap­proaches will al­low for habi­tat restora­tion while achiev­ing food self-suf­fi­ciency. They will also help erad­i­cate poverty and to es­cape the vi­cious cy­cle of con­flict be­tween peo­ple and land. All this will achieve win-win eco­log­i­cal and eco­nomic re­sults,” Sha said.

He hence pro­poses es­tab­lish­ing eco­log­i­cal restora­tion demon­stra­tion bases or spe­cial eco­log­i­cal-eco­nomic zones in eco­log­i­cally frag­ile ar­eas. Af­ter a trial pe­riod, suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ences can be dis­sem­i­nated through­out ar­eas along the Silk Road.

Mul­ti­ple forces should be en­cour- aged to par­tic­i­pate in Silk Road eco­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, “This is not just state be­hav­ior in Silk Road coun­tries; it is more im­por­tant still to en­cour­age so­cial forces, es­pe­cially en­ter­prises, to par­tic­i­pate in eco­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment,” Sha said. Lead­ing eco­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment en­ter­prises, such as the Elion Re­sources Group, have in­deed dis­played a strong sense of so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity. They should proac­tively im­ple­ment the “go­ing global” strat­egy, par­tic­i­pate on a larger wider and higher scale in in­ter­na­tional ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion on eco­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, and pro­mote eco­log­i­cal and eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion along the Silk Road.

We should seek to de­velop eco­log­i­cal cul­ture and pop­u­lar­ize the con­cept of eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion. “I pro­pose car­ry­ing out var­i­ous forms of eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion out­reach ac­tiv­i­ties in the Silk Road coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly those in eco­log­i­cally frag­ile ar­eas, to cre­ate a strong ethos of eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion, raise eco­log­i­cal aware­ness, and make the build­ing of eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion a con­scious ac­tion along the Silk Road,” Sha said.

Rais­ing eco­log­i­cal aware­ness, he be­lieves, is also rel­e­vant to gov­ern­ments. “In 1992, we wit­nessed three out­comes: first, the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change; sec­ond, the Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Diver­sity; and third, the Di­a­logues among United Na­tions. We should work hard to­gether and make a joint ef­fort to­wards new achieve­ments.”

Re­live the Glo­ri­ous His­tory of the An­cient Silk Road

The rise and fall of the an­cient Silk Road is in fact a his­tory of eco­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion. The ad­vance­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive makes build­ing an eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion a vi­tal strate­gic link. That we should build an eco­log­i­cal Silk Road and a Green Silk Road is also the con­sen­sus of coun­tries along it. “I be­lieve that through co­or­di­na­tion, the an­cient Silk Road will in­deed be able to re­al­ize Green Value, so achiev­ing more hu­man ben­e­fits and rekin­dling its glo­ri­ous his­tory,” Sha said.

Last Septem­ber the United Na­tions con­vened a sum­mit on the post- 2015 de­vel­op­ment agenda, which en­tails im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs). The em­pha­sis is on bal­anced eco­nomic, so­cial, and en­vi­ron­men­tal de­vel­op­ment – the three pil­lars of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

The post-2015 de­vel­op­ment agenda has also es­tab­lished a broader and stronger global de­vel­op­ment part­ner­ship, so en­er­giz­ing in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion.

Goal 15 pro­vides that mem­ber states “Pro­tect, re­store and pro­mote sus­tain­able use of ter­res­trial ecosys­tems, sus­tain­ably man­age forests, com­bat de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, halt and re­verse land degra­da­tion, and halt bio­di­ver­sity loss.” The UN also calls upon the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, “by 2020, [ to] com­bat de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, and re­store de­graded land and soil, in­clud­ing land af­fected by de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land-degra­da­tion neu­tral world.”

Former Un­der-Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral for Eco­nomic and So­cial Af­fairs and Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral of the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly on Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment (Rio+20) Sha Zhukang.

The UNEP Eco­log­i­cal & Eco­nomic Demon­stra­tion Zone in Kubuqi Desert.

The Bawang River in Ulan­qab af­ter un­der­go­ing wa­ter reg­u­la­tion and con­trol.

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