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Zhangye unveils plans to build for sustainable future

Updated: 2015-11-23
By Li Yang And Xue Chao Hua In Zhangye, Gansu ( China Daily )

Zhangye in Gansu province is known for its extensive grain production. Here, Mayor Huang Zeyuan discusses the area's future:

How does Zhangye transform its agricultural industry?

Agriculture is a competitive industry in Zhangye and we must build on our success, and reduce our reliance on natural resources.

One way of doing this is by branding organic agricultural products. They represent the future of the industry.

After more than 30 years of fast economic growth, Chinese consumers attach more importance to quality than quantity.

In the past, the government told farmers what to plant every year. Now, the main responsibility of the government is to provide farmers with agricultural technology, information and modern infrastructure.

The small farmers' economy model will not survive in the modern market. Zhangye's agriculture must follow the standardization model - from seed breeding to agricultural product control and inspection.

This cannot be done by the farmers alone. The government is doing its part by offering support in land and funding.

So far, with the government's help and new information technology, such as e-commerce, Zhangye's vegetable, beef, millet, corn seed, cattle fodder and fruit sectors have already embarked on this road.

How can the area attract businesses?

An important task of our work is to encourage people to start their own businesses and pursue innovation. This will fuel economic growth and create jobs.

The government now needs to create a favorable market environment for business growth and innovation. New businesses and innovative industries will generate huge amounts of "added-value" in the form of social wealth.

As more people earn their livings by running businesses, or working in innovative industries, the number relying on government welfare will drop. Society, on the whole, will have more vitality.

The Zhangye government will soon unveil a package of pro-business and pro-innovation policies.

They will involve scrapping fees, taxes and industrial park workshop rents.

They will also include subsidized loans, providing loan guarantees and funding staff training within a certain period of time after new businesses are registered in Zhangye.

The purpose of these policies is to minimize the costs, and the risks involved, in starting new and innovative businesses.

How will you balance ecological preservation with economic growth?

A key responsibility of the Zhangye government is to protect its delicate ecological environment. Zhangye is the last protective screen ofthe Qinghai-Tibet Plateau against the Gobi Desert in the north.

So, it's vital we safeguard this region. In fact, the number of mines in Zhangye fell from 846 in early 1990s to fewer than 200 now.

In the nature reserve of the Qilian mountains, the number of mining enterprises dropped from 707 to 70, among which only 40 are still operating.

The number of herdsmen and farmers in the nature reserve has dropped from 18,000 to 3,000. More than 80 percent of the grasslands in the Qilian mountains are well protected.

Since 2001, Zhangye has given half of the Heihe River's water, which originates from Qilian's snow mountains, to the downstream Ejina in Inner Mongolia in the Gobi Desert, a source of sand storms in North China.

Farmers in Zhangye have responded to the challenge by replacing water-intensive wheat and rice crops with more sustainable produce such as millet and corn.

Developing tourism can also help Zhangye strike a balance between ecological preservation and economic growth.

We have diverse kinds of landscapes, a number of places of historical interest, and colorful ethnic cultures which are major attractions. But an urgent task is to raise local people's awareness of their roles as hosts in a tourist city.

Contact the writers at liyang@chinadaily.com.cn

Zhangye unveils plans to build for sustainable future

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