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Hainan steps up environmental protection

By Ma Zhiping in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-24 10:29
Children play in a park in Nanqiang village in Qionghai, Hainan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Province plans hefty fines for misuse and damage of natural resources

Hainan is taking comprehensive action to implement a model for green development, according to officials with the provincial government.

Penalties for illegal activities harmful to the environment are among efforts implemented, said Mao Dongli, deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Department of Ecology and Environment.

Mao said Hainan's legal enforcement teams investigated 1,172 cases of environmental violation in 2018, resulting in penalties totaling 184 million yuan ($26.7 million), an increase of 76 percent year-on-year. A total of 275 enterprises were investigated and 54 people were detained.

The most recent case involved R&F Mangrove Bay Properties, the largest ecological tourism realty project in western Hainan province, which was ordered by local authorities to suspend all sales and marketing business this month for destroying large areas of mangrove forest. The rare tropical woods form a natural defense against coastal erosion thanks to extensive roots that stabilize the shorelines.

"Strict environmental administrative punishment is an important means to force enterprises to abide by the law," Mao said, adding that local law enforcement officers will continue cracking down on environmental violations to "ensure that Hainan's mountains remain green and the sky remains blue."

"New projects now face higher environmental protection thresholds. We want to support better development of quality enterprises and optimize local industrial layout," said Bo Yi, deputy director of the department of atmospheric sciences with the provincial ecology and environment department.

Data from the provincial government show Hainan completed environment appraisals for 641 projects in 2018. Only seven were not given the green light due to unqualified selection of project sites and violations of environmental protection regulations. In the past three years, more than 500 projects were turned down because of potential environmental risks.

Starting last year, Hainan changed its GDP growth evaluation for local leaders in 12 cities and counties, including Qiongzhong, Baoting, Baisha, Changjiang, Wuzhishan, Lingao, which are core ecological resources areas in Hainan.

Traditional factors, such as GDP growth, industrial production and fixed-asset investment, are no longer decisive elements for local leaders. Instead, they are evaluated on achievements in environmental protection and development of local ecological civilization, according to a provincial government report.

Though the final annual performance appraisal of local officials for last year is not available yet, positive results of their efforts in exploring a green development model can be clearly seen, said Cheng Shaolin, an official with the Hainan Provincial Bureau of Statistics.

The real estate industry, which used to be Hainan's economic pillar, making up about half of the island province's tax revenue, saw a substantial decline of 16.5 percent in investment and 37 percent in sales last year, as Hainan cut its dependence on the industry and switched to a greener path, according to figures from the bureau.

It said GDP of the whole province increased by 5.8 percent, and income of urban and rural residents increased by 8.2 and 8.4 percent, respectively, in 2018. High-tech industries like crop seed breeding, deep sea research and aerospace research are taking shape.

The Hainan Environment Science Research Institute said in a report that ecological environment improvement has led PM2.5 to drop by 15 percent in the past three years across the island. The Hainan Tropical Rainforest National Park Administration has been established to strengthen protection of tropical rainforest ecosystems and guide planning and research of the national park which covers one-seventh of Hainan Island.

"Green and low-carbon energy structure is being promoted, with 77 percent of public transport vehicles and 90 percent of taxis using clean energy in Hainan," said Wu Xiaochen, deputy director of the research institute.

Hainan has drawn a red line of special protection around 27.3 percent of its land area and 35.1 percent of its sea area, where construction that harms the local environment is strictly forbidden, even if it might bring economic benefits to the island, said Ding Shijiang, director of the Hainan Provincial Natural Resources and Planning Department.

"The system of appointing officials as 'chiefs' to protect rivers, lakes, bays and mountains is being implemented to curb pollution and safeguard the island's unique resources," he said.

The island province, popular for its unique climate, beaches, holiday resorts and tropical landscape, is seeking support from top think tanks at home and abroad for research on countries and regions with first-class ecological environments and is formulating technical and policy road maps for Hainan's environmental objectives of 2020, 2025 and 2035, said a report from the provincial ecological department.

"This year, Hainan will introduce a supervision system for eco-environmental protection, promoting implementation of regulations on ecological compensation in Hainan, on the administration of pollution discharge licensing and on prohibiting the production, sale and use of non-degradable plastic products in Hainan," said Mao, deputy director of ecology and environment and environment department.

Mao added that the department will also complete planning for regional spatial ecological environment assessment and fixing the redlines for the ecological environment, the bottom line for environment quality, the ceiling of resources utilization and the entry list for the ecological environment for projects.

China unveiled on May 12 the Implementation Plan for the National Ecological Civilization Pilot Zone (Hainan), vowing to continue comprehensive experiments of ecological civilization system reform in the southern island province, aiming to bring about a new pattern of harmonious coexistence of man and nature in China's modernization drive and write a new chapter for Hainan for building a beautiful China.

Chi Fulin, president of the China Institute for Reform and Development, said that Hainan is unique in its geographical location, resources and ecological environment. "Transforming these huge resource advantages into realistic competitive advantages is the most important aspect to building a high-quality free trade pilot zone in Hainan," he said.

Liu Cigui, Party secretary of Hainan, said the island's ecological resources are its best capital and biggest advantage. "Hainan should not only be a lucky child endowed with good ecological resources, but also an excellent student of green development," he said.

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