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Plans in works for a 'naturally' beautiful Xiongan

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-24 07:53

The central government has set up a special fund of 500 million yuan ($76 million) for an ongoing "face lift" project aimed at making ecological improvements in the Xiongan New Area in Hebei province before construction begins.

In addition, two ecological protection plans are being drafted to make the area a "naturally scenic city with blue skies, fresh air and clean water". The Ministry of Environmental Protection is also forming an advisory committee that will contribute expertise in carrying out the plans, You Yanxin, an official in the ministry's department of planning and finance, said at a news conference on Thursday.

"The ministry has launched an investigation into soil pollution in the new area, and priority will be given to land that will be used for hospital and school construction," she said.

Plans in works for a 'naturally' beautiful Xiongan

In an inspection campaign launched in May by the top environmental watchdog and the Hubei provincial government, 12,098 polluting enterprises in the area have been shut down. Problems found in 636 of the 674 cases unearthed by the inspection have been rectified, she said.

"The heavy crackdown on various activities that damage the environment has promoted environmental improvement," You said.

A special working group headed by Minister of Environmental Protection Li Ganjie has drafted an implementation plan for the near future with specific tasks and deadlines, she added.

She said the ministry will offer guidance in the drafting of two environment protection plans - one for the whole area by the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, and one for Baiyangdian Lake by the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences.

The lake environment includes one of the largest freshwater wetlands in northern China.

"The ministry will give priority to drawing and strictly maintaining red lines - limits that cannot be crossed" and "carry out strict protection of Baiyangdian Lake and other areas with important ecological functions", she said. The goal is to make them cornerstones for the construction of an ecological city.

Wang Jinnan, chief engineer of the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, said the academy completed a draft protection plan for Xiongan after on-site investigations, but it still needs to be appraised and adjusted to match the general construction plan for the area.

When the plan will be published is not known, but Wang said that "it needs a lot of work" .

One of the challenges in implementing the plan for the area lies in raising capital without disclosing how much money will be needed, Wang said. "It will also be challenging to improve the air quality, as the area is not closed and is affected by its surrounding environment."

It's up to the Hebei provincial government to decide what will be done in the "facelift" project. The overall goal of the project is to improve Baiyangdian Lake and the rivers in the area, which is about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing, he said.

houliqiang@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 11/24/2017 page5)

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