Environmental policies give Hainan foundation for prosperity

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/4/19 20:18:40

View of coconut palms in South China's Hainan Province in April 2017 Photo: IC

Under the betel trees of Beireng Village in China's tropical island province of Hainan, Wang Qiuxiang's coffee stall always does brisk business, even if the items on her menu are more expensive than those of some of the boutique coffee shops in the city.

Wang, 46, learned to make coffee from her father. He had learned the trade from his parents, who had migrated to Singapore to run a snack bar. Every morning, the couple made coffee with beans they had grown and roasted themselves for workers at a nearby rubber plantation.

After quitting her job at a four-star hotel in Qionghai, Hainan Province, where she worked for 17 years, Wang returned to her hometown of Beireng to start a coffee business in 2014. At the time, the local government was cleaning up the village and planning to develop tourism.

"There used to be piles of garbage and sewage everywhere in the village.Villagers themselves were leaving. Why would any tourist want to come?" Wang said.

Tourism surge

Now, with its idyllic setting and well-preserved old buildings, the village of 162 residents receives thousands of tourists each day. It was recognized as one of the most beautiful and livable villages by the housing and urban-rural development ministry in 2016.

"We cherish our clean water and green hills. We are sure that they can make money and bring us better lives," said villager Lin Zonghao.

Beireng is an example of Hainan's increasing environmental awareness in supporting local health and economic development.

The province's natural environment is already the best in the country. Air quality in the provincial capital of Haikou has ranked first among 74 major cities for five consecutive years and the province's forest coverage has grown by 65 percent during the past three decades to its current 32.04 million mu (2.14 million hectares), according to statistics from the local environmental protection department and forestry department.

Central backing

The Communist Party of China Central Committee has decided to support the province, which was founded 30 years ago, in building a national ecological development pilot zone, with the country's strictest ecological and environmental protection mechanism and a modern regulation mechanism.

"Hainan's environment is its biggest asset. The foundation for green development is preservation of the environment," said Professor Ge Chengjun from Hainan University.

Since 2013, the provincial environmental protection department has issued dozens of regulations, including a rule establishing a red line for protected coastal areas covering more than 19,800 square km.

To balance environmental protection and development, the local government has stopped assessing the economic performances of 12 cities and counties in terms of GDP and fixed-asset investment, starting this year.

Across the island, the province is prioritizing the development of 12 environmentally-friendly industries, such as tourism, internet, agriculture, and healthcare.

A software park in Chengmai county has attracted about 2,500 companies, including heavyweights like Tencent, Baidu, and Huawei.

In addition, Hainan plans to have all its vehicles run on new energy by 2030 to cut emissions. With about 1.18 million vehicles, the province plans to introduce 5,600 new energy vehicles into the market and build more than 10,000 recharging posts this year.

Since Sansha was established in 2012 to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea, the city government has intensified measures to improve the environment of the islands.

Last year, the city began piloting an "island chief" scheme in Qilianyu Islands to control pollutant discharge, protect sea turtles and restore the environment on the islands.

Thanks to the efforts of these island chiefs and reef protectors, more than 170 sea turtle nests were spotted during the breeding season in 2017, compared with some 50 in 2014.

Challenges remain

Earlier this month, the provincial government issued a three-year work plan to eliminate filthy bodies of water in cities by 2020.

The government also aims to raise the proportion of villages with sewage treatment facilities to 30 percent and will shut down or relocate some large farms by the end of this year.

Starting in late September, Qiongzhong, Baisha, Baoting counties and Wuzhishan in central Hainan stopped approving construction of new property projects to be sold to buyers from outside the province in order to protect the environment.

"Hainan cannot be a 'processing plant' for real estate. We cannot build as many houses as buyers outside Hainan want," Liu Cigui, Party chief of Hainan, told reporters during the annual national legislative session in March.

Newspaper headline: Green is for growth


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