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Ecological zones prioritized

By Zheng Jinran | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-08 07:31

'Red line' aims to safeguard soil, water, forestry and biodiversity

China has issued a guideline calling for an "ecological red line" around areas where development is prohibited, with the nationwide initiative expected to be completed by 2020, the central government said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and provinces along the Yangtze River will take the lead in drawing the red line to protect the environment by the end of this year.

By 2030, China will see the system working effectively, with noticeable improvements in ecological functions across the country, the statement said.

The regions mapped out by the "ecological red line", which are of critical importance for natural functions and the protection of water, soil, forestry and biodiversity, should be strictly protected and free from development or exploitation.

"The ecological red line aims to safeguard national ecological security," the statement said, adding that the country must closely monitor it.

When local governments draw the red line, they should consider natural boundaries such as rivers and mountains, as well as administrative lines like protection zones under unified standards to help form a national map.

The country's top economic planner and environmental authorities will lead the "drawing" of the red line along with other governments and departments, the information of which will be made public.

In addition to the principles and process of drawing the red line, China will build a new monitoring network and a platform to analyze data and assess risks in the mapped out regions by the end of this year, the statement said.

The central ministries will assess local governments' performance and any official found violating red-line protection measures will be severely punished.

Since the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms approved the guideline on Nov 1, provinces have been planning their red lines, with some such as Jiangxi and Hubei having already finished their plans and awaiting approval, Chen Jining, minister of environmental protection, said at the annual meeting on environmental protection last month.

On Monday, Guizhou province released its "ecological red line" plan, which accounts for 31 percent of the province's total area.

"I think it is appropriate for the country to keep 35 percent of its territory inside the ecological red line to better protect the environment," Ouyang Zhiyun, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Center for Environmental Studies, said on Tuesday.

Ouyang said he is confident that provinces will reach their targets for drawing the red line and environmental protection because of the growing attention the system is receiving and other supplementary policies that will support its implementation.

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