Rural environment needs protection
Lawmaker Jiang Deming wants to make sure rural regions will not find themselves lagging behind when the country takes action to "ensure people have clean water, fresh air and a better environment to live in."
The deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) now in session has submitted a proposal calling for a draft agricultural environmental and ecological protection law.
He hopes it will prevent the rural environment from getting any worse.
While Premier Wen Jiabao undoubtedly had the whole nation in mind when he proclaimed environmental protection as a key national objective in his work report to the NPC on Saturday, Jiang said ad hoc legislation will help the countryside to be better protected from the negative effects of development.
"Unlike cities, most rural areas do not have special funds put aside for building sewage treating systems. As a result, waste collects here and there, and pollution is rampant in many regions," the legislator from East China's Jiangsu Province said.
Based on his research, Jiang said China's rural ecological system is extremely fragile. He cited a survey which claims one-third of the country's total area is already blighted by water and soil erosion.
Added to this, at least 133,300 hectares of farmland have been either occupied or ruined by solid wastes, and polluted air is fouling production conditions for more than 5.3 million hectares of arable fields, he said.
Furthermore, many farmers have applied excessive amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to their crops, leaving harmful residues in the soil and ultimately in agricultural products.
Gao Wangsheng, a professor at the Beijing-based China Agricultural University, said conserving the environment is important to safeguarding the security of the food supply in China.
The threats to the rural environment call for prompt and effective action, Jiang said.
"If we could formulate a statute specializing on protecting the agricultural ecology and environment, we could expect to reverse the situation," he said.
The proposed bill will prescribe an obligation for rural authorities to build and protect the ecology and environment.
In particular, the law will require local governments to include protection of the rural environment and ecology in their annual economic and social development plans, while budgeting special funds for cleaning up such areas, he said.
The legislation will also seek to keep at bay polluting firms from various cities, whose survival has been retreating to rural areas due to harsher urban environmental regulations, he said.
While Jiang is eager to push the legislation, experts said it is more important to implement current statutes to tackle agricultural ecological and environmental problems.
Since late 1970s China formulated and has been revising laws and regulations regarding environmental protection, visiting scholar at Tsinghua University Zhang Jianyu told China Daily.
Although many of the statutes were prompted by industrial pollution, the laws apply to rural areas as well, he said.
Therefore, creating new laws specifically for rural regions may not be the best solution to farmers' woes. Rather it may be more practical to increase funds for existing projects and to launch special efforts to curb pollutions in the countryside, he said.
(China Daily 03/09/2005 page3)