Protecting Clean Water and Green Mountains
In early November, the People's Government of Beijing Municipality issued the Opinions on Promoting the Protection and Green Development of Ecological Conservation Areas. This is an important measure in implementing the Beijing Urban Master Plan (2016–2035) (new edition) and constructing a world-class, harmonious, liveable city.
In early November, the People's Government of Beijing Municipality issued Opinions on Promoting the Protection and Green Development of Ecological Conservation Areas ( The Opinions), which is an important measure in implementing the Beijing Urban Master Plan (2016–2035) and constructing a world-class, harmonious, liveable city.
The scope of the ecological conservation areas of Beijing Municipality includes Mentougou, Pinggu, Huairou, Miyun and Yanqing districts, as well as the mountainous areas in Changping and Fangshan districts. The total land area is 11,259 square kilometres (sq.km), accounting for 68 percent of the total area of the municipality. These areas had a total population of 2.664 million in 2017, accounting for 12.3 percent of the city's total population. For many years, the Beijing Municipal Government has focused on the protection and green development of these areas. Leaders including Cai Qi, secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, and Chen Jining, mayor of Beijing, conducted investigation tours to these areas to listen to suggestions and advice. Based on this
investigation and research, The Opinions was issued.
Because of continuous efforts on the part of the city, remarkable outcomes have been made in the protection and green development of the ecological conservation areas. Beijing implemented urban function division in 2005. Since 2012, designated ecological conservation areas have adhered to their orientation and maintained good green development momentum.
Progress have been made in improving the ecological environment. The municipality has launched a series of environmental improvement projects, such as the 66,667-hectare (ha) afforestation project, the BeijingTianjin sand source control project and the Yongding River comprehensive management and ecological restoration project. The city has also implemented the Clean Air Action Plan and the river chief accountability mechanism.
Data that has been collected reflect the success of the projects. In 2017, the average annual concentration of particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5) in these areas was lower than that of the municipality. The forest coverage rate reached 53.25 percent, which was 10.25 percent higher than that of the municipality; and the per capita green land area was 25.9 square metres (sq.m), 60 percent higher than that of the city.
Second, the hosting of international events has led to the enhancement of the areas' domestic and international influence. Districts where ecological conservation areas are situated have hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, APEC China 2014 and other events of worldwide significance. Now, they are preparing for the Beijing Expo 2019, Pinggu 2020 World Leisure Congress and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. The development of The Great Wall Cultural Belt and the Western Hills–yongding River Cultural Belt is also promoting the spread of Chinese culture.
In addition, a solid foundation has been laid for green development. From 2012–2017, gross domestic product (GDP) in the ecological conservation areas maintained an average annual growth of 8.5 percent, and the structural ratio for the primary, secondary and the tertiary industries was adjusted to 3.9: 43.2: 52.9 from 7.8: 46.2: 46.
Relevant districts have formulated policies to preserve this progress. They have implemented strict industry access standards and have created and implemented a list of highly-polluting industries to be limited or prohibited. They reject registration of enterprises that are inconsistent with their orientation. Science parks in these districts actively introduce major industrial projects that cover less land, have high added value and low energy consumption. Each district is making efforts to cultivate its own distinctive, dominant industries.
Ecological conservation areas are also of special significance for the capital city's development.
These areas occupy an important position in the Beijing Urban Master Plan (new edition) because of their location and function. In recent years, Beijing has adopted many measures and issued documents to put into practice Chinese President Xi Jinping's concept that “clean water and lush mountains are treasures.” This will help promote quality development of the city.
The Opinions are an important strategy for implementing the capital's orientation as the nation's centre of culture, politics, scientific and technological innovation, and international exchange and enhance the “four services.” President Xi conducted investigation tours to Beijing twice and gave instructions. He focused on Beijing's ecological resources and environment. One of the “four services” proposed in response is to provide a fine ecological environment for people and international exchange activities. The ecological conservation areas are the vehicle to provide these ecological products and services.
These areas will play an important role in undertaking the capital's role as a centre of these four areas. For example, Huairou Science City, branches of Zhongguancun Science Park, The Great Wall Cultural Belt and the Western Hills– Yongding River Cultural Belt will be sites for major international exchange events and high-tech innovation projects. These areas lay a solid ecological foundation for building a world-class, harmonious, livable city. As the ecological conservation areas account for more than 60 percent of the municipality's area and they include areas of profound culture, history and beauty, they are important ecological protective screens, water source protection areas and are important to ensure the capital's sustainable development.
These areas also serve as “oxygen bars” and back gardens for residents and are ideal destinations for urban farming experiences and suburban tourism. They set an example for reform, innovation and ecological construction. Efforts will be made to promote the construction of these areas in northwestern Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province as well.
Achievements have been made in the construction of ecological conservation areas. However, these areas still need to improve the ecological environment and have shortcomings in developing green industries and enhancing urban service ability. They should further improve systems and mechanisms, solve bottleneck issues, and enhance the effectiveness and coverage of measures and regulations.
Highlights An Example in Ecological Construction, Green Development
The government will adhere to relevant concepts to construct these areas into an example for ecological construction and green development.
Beijing will further implement the Beijing Urban Master Plan (2016–2035) and establish the concept that “clean water and lush mountains are valuable treasures.” In line with residents' expectations for a beautiful ecological environment, the government will continue to improve the capacity and quality of the local environment, adhere to green development, strengthen endogenous development momentum, serve the people, and narrow the gap between infrastructure and the people's demands for public services. It will launch a systematic ecological
protection project. The protection scope will cover the Yanshan Mountains in North Beijing, the Western Hills, three reservoirs (Miyun, Guanting and Huairou) and five rivers, which are Juhe River in East Beijing, Chaobai River in the north, the North Canal in Central Beijing, Yongding River in the west and Juma River to the southwest.
The municipality will systematically promote the green development of Huairou Science City, The Great Wall Cultural Belt, the Western Hills–yongding River Cultural Belt and multiple parks. The parks include all branches of the Zhongguancun Science Park, Yanqi Lake International Convention Capital, the functional parks for Beijing Expo 2019, Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Pinggu 2020 World Leisure Congress and other industrial parks. The city government aims to create a distinctive, high- quality development path and to transform ecological conservation areas into demonstration zones to display Beijing's beautiful natural scenery, leading zones for ecological construction and a model zone of green development.
Top Priority, Ensuring Rights and Interests, Green Development
The three key phrases refer to “top priority,” “ensuring the rights and interests of relevant people” and “green development.”
Effectively preserving the green mountains and clean waters is the top priority for the ecological conservation areas. The municipality will act promptly to establish red lines for ecological conservation and urban development boundaries. It will then hold firm to these lines. It will make reasonable construction plans and curb aimless and blind development to ensure the increase of ecological space and the lowering of land development intensity. It will strengthen joint construction and joint governance for multiple entities. Additionally, the government will increase investment in environmental protection and improvement.
The government will establish a green development fund, issue green bonds and adopt other methods to attract extensive participation. It will adhere to the concept that “mountains, water, forestry, land, lakes and grass are a community of shared life” to advance the protection of ecological conservation areas. It will encourage relevant districts to be built into national forestry districts and gradually construct a green separation system. Furthermore, it will continue to implement the new 66,667 ha of forestation project, and more than 2,000 ha of wetland will be constructed or restored. Appraisal and incentive mechanisms will be strengthened. The Opinions establish 21 appraisal indicators for monitoring environmental protection, ecological construction, quality development, employment and income increase, urban services plus innovation and opening. Among them, 14 indicators are related to environmental protection and energy conservation.
The basic development rights and interests of the ecological conservation areas must be guaranteed. First, the government will protect the rights and interests of those who protect the mountains, forests and waters. The municipality has already worked out ecological conservation compensation policies and this year it issued The Opinions to increase the income for those protecting the environment.
Second, the rights and interests of enterprises whose orientations are in line with the ecological conservation areas will be ensured. Enterprises engaged in energy conservation and technology upgrade will receive a municipal subsidy: 600 yuan for industrial enterprises and 800 yuan for non-industrial enterprises per consumption of one ton of standard coal. Support will be given to those engaged in environmentally-friendly industries. They can enjoy green finance and other preferable policies. District governments that make efforts to develop the ecological conservation areas will receive funding. The municipal government will follow the principles of guaranteeing the basic operation, strengthening dominant functions and standardising fund distribution, plus coordinating ecological policies and municipal fund distribution. This is an innovation in funding mechanisms.
Municipal funds will be allocated to districts via payment transfers. Each district will have the right to decide the way the money is used. An assessment mechanism will be established to link the fund distribution plan with their needs to strengthen districts' abilities to realise dominant functions. Districts will also be encouraged to form pairs to institute targeted cooperation. They will work out specific plans for ecological construction, industrial development and offering public services. They will share resources and launch joint construction. A cross- district transfer payment system will also be established to support districts through guiding green industry projects and further promoting their implementation. Lastly, officials who make contributions to ecological improvement will be recognised and rewarded. Workers experienced in ecological protection and green development will have the chance to join district leadership or municipal-level leadership. They will launch a working system that encourages officials to work at the grassroots and make contributions.
The term for these areas will also be changed. Rather than the previous “ecological conservation development areas” phrase, the areas are now known as “ecological conservation areas,” with “development” being deleted. This does not mean development is not important; instead, these areas will strive to achieve quality development. GDP will not be the only indicator of success; instead, “green GDP” will be emphasised. These areas will be constructed into demonstration areas for green development. Part of the connotation of “green development” is that the areas are ideal for living, tourism and working, and also part of an important foundation for Beijing to become a worldclass, liveable and harmonious city.
Centring on the capital's orientation, the ecological conservation areas will further undertake and supplement functions and industries for green development. Mentougou District will explore and integrate ancient village resources, enhance the influence of the Western Beijing Ancient Trail and
promote the development of cultural tourism, medical tourism and outdoor sports. Pinggu will make use of the opportunity to host the 2022 World Leisure Congress to advance the development of leisure and tourism industries. Huairou will construct the Huairou Science City and the Yanqi Lake International Convention Centre as well as promote innovation- driven high-tech cultural development. Miyun District will take water protection as its top priority and promote the integrated development of a distinctive agricultural and tourism industry. Yanqing District will develop the snow and ice industry and horticultural industry through the hosting of the Beijing Expo 2019 and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Fangshan will coordinate its cultural, historical and geographical relic resources. Changping will coordinate its historical, cultural and agricultural resources to develop cultural tourism and an ecological leisure industry. Meanwhile, Changping aims to realise quality development.
The municipality will speed up the withdrawal of unqualified manufacturing enterprises and other enterprises not in line with the capital's orientation. With the restrictions on construction land and development intensity, these ecological conservation areas will achieve intensive and efficient shared development.
The Opinions are a package of gifts for residents. A group of projects in the fields of ecology, transportation, education, hospital and culture are listed. Specifically, these projects include a large scale afforestation project and the construction of railways in suburban and shallow mountain areas. A tertiary hospital will be built in each district. The Great Wall Cultural Belt and Western Hills–yongding River Cultural Belt will be constructed as well.
The Opinions highlights ecological conservation areas' environmental protection function and green development. The document emphasises practical purposes and puts forward 16 measures related to improving ecological protection compensation mechanisms, continuously increasing investment, establishing the in-pair cooperation mechanism, guaranteeing the interests and rights of relevant officials and improving the appraisal system to ensure programme implementation. Both reward and punishment measures will be utilised. The transfer payment from the city government and the transfer payment across districts, together with the incentive policies, are solid foundations to ensure implementation. The document combines officials' efforts with assessment and appraisal. These measures provide encouragement and supervision.
The Opinions clarify working division, accountability, appraisal mechanisms and supervision. Responsible units and departments are required to work out specific measures. District governments should urge the implementation of these measures. The General Offices of Beijing Municipal Government and the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee should fulfill their supervision responsibilities and assess and report the implementation status to the public every year.
With joint efforts, the ecological conservation areas will be built into a demonstration zone to display the capital's beautiful scenery and landscape, as well as a leading zone for ecological construction and green development.
Swans at the Miyun Reservoir
An aerial view of Hongluosi Scenic Spot