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    IN BRIEF (Page: 8, Date: 03/13/2006)

2006-03-13 07:35

Energy consumption to be cut

China will strive to bring down its energy consumption rate by four per cent this year, a key index to guide economic and social development, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced recently.

It is the first time that China combines energy-efficiency with the indices of economic growth, price, employment and balance of payments for macro-control of its economy.

China is determined to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 20 per cent in the coming five years, with a new round of economic and social development beginning this year.

Clean-up of rural areas

China has launched a pilot campaign to tackle major environmental problems in its vast rural areas, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration.

The programme is a major move by the Chinese Government to overhaul the rural environment over the next five years to enable farmers to bid farewell to their often garbage-ridden and dust-smothered surroundings.

The programme has already been carried out in six provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, including Jiangsu, Jilin and Ningxia, and is to gradually extend to other parts of the country, the administration said.

The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in Northwest China was the first region that experimented with the programme. According to the administration, Ningxia's double-digit economic growth over the past five years laid a solid foundation for its implementation.

Grassland protection

Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu called for greater efforts to protect the country's grasslands, which he said are critical to the nation's environmental safety and sustainable economic growth.

The protection and building of pastures has to be taken into account in the context of the national efforts towards an environment-friendly society and of the building of a "new socialist countryside," Hui acknowledged.

The vice-premier said the protection of grasslands, as an important strategic resource, is very crucial to the conservation of biological diversity as well as to the development of modern agriculture and the prosperity of rural farmers.

"It is crucial to step up legislation and law enforcement on the use of new technologies and allow farmers an active role," he said. Local governments must alter policies to support grassland development and increase spending on this, he said.

China now has nearly 400 million hectares of natural grassland, the second largest in the world. However, 90 per cent of its usable grassland is degraded to various extents.

Passive smoking

Shocked by the fact that nearly half of the country's 1.3 billion population suffer from passive smoking, a Chinese lawmaker has called for a national legislation to ban smoking in all public places.

"According to my estimation based on a survey, nearly 600 million Chinese suffer from passive smoking, which occurs in 71 per cent of Chinese households, 32.5 per cent of public places and 25 per cent of working places," said Chen Guiyun, a deputy from the southwestern municipality of Chongqing to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC).

China is already home to a whopping 350 million smokers aged above 15, or one of every three smokers in the world.

According to the legislator, women and children in the country suffer most from second-hand smoking, as the survey showed the passive smoking ratio among the females was 57 per cent, and even as high as 70 per cent among professional women aged between 20 and 49.

When conditions are ripe, Chen said, the NPC should even enact a law on such a ban.

Many Chinese cities, government departments and organizations have adopted local-level or internal regulations and rules banning smoking in public places.

However, so far it seems that only airline companies, which have forbidden smoking on domestic and international flights, strictly observe such a ban.

According to the standards of the World Health Organization, passive smokers are those non-smoking people who for more than 15 minutes more than one day of a week are exposed to smog exhaled by smokers.

(China Daily 03/13/2006 page8)


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