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Forum focuses on environment as basic human right

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-13 07:13

"The pursuit of a clean, beautiful environment is among the most basic of human rights, which deserves protection," Luo Haocai, president of the China Society for Human Rights Studies, said on Thursday.

Luo made the remarks in an interview with China Daily at the Sixth Beijing Forum on Human Rights, which opened on Thursday.

A healthy environment is especially important to the Chinese people while the country is in the process of economic development, he said.

However, protecting the environment does not mean we must curb economic development, he said.

Economic development is also a basic human right and the issue is to balance the two in the process, he said.

In his address at the opening ceremony of the forum, Luo listed ecological civilization, or the protection of people's environmental rights, as a key point in China's overall plan for social development.

Social, economic, political and cultural construction are also vital to China's social development, he added.

Cai Mingzhao, minister of the Information Office of the State Council, said in his address to the forum that the central government is committed to protecting citizens' rights to the environment and that it insists on respecting and protecting nature in the country's development.

"From 2008 to 2012, China eliminated 117 million metric tons of outdated iron smelting capacity, 78 million tons of steel smelting capacity and 775 million tons of cement productive capacity," Cai said.

He added that energy consumption per unit of GDP decreased 17.2 percent, total chemical consumption of oxygen decreased 15.7 percent, and total emissions of carbon dioxide decreased 17.5 percent.

"In 2012, fine particulate matter was also included as a regular supervision index of air quality," Cai said.

The protection of people's environmental rights is especially important in China, which is still the largest developing country in the world.

"An excessively large population and great regional disparities add considerable pressure to the environmental and ecological protection in the country," the minister said.

The speech was echoed by Fernando Alberto Calle Hayen, a constitutional magistrate of Peru, in a speech at the forum.

Hayen emphasized that the right to a healthy environment is a fundamental right and should be protected without discrimination.

As human rights pertains to many aspects, such as life, health and security, environmental protection is "doubtlessly the best means to protect them all", he said.

Akmal Kholmatovich Saidov, director of the National Human Rights Center of Uzbekistan, submitted an essay to the forum about the Aral Sea, once one of the most beautiful seas on the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, dried up to the size of a pond in just one generation.

As a result, the region has experienced environmental, social, economic and demographic problems.

He urged environmental protection, which is essential to other aspects of human rights, in the post industrial era.

Luo said improving the environment requires cooperation from all sides.

"The government, social organizations and individuals all need to participate in constructing ecological civilization and protecting the environment as a human right."

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