China’s first ecological civilization pilot zone moves towards green growth

By Zhong Ziwei, Jing Yi from People’s Daily
By introducing a series of creative measures to purify waters and green land, southeast China’s Fujian Province has been moving forward for better ecological environment after it was designated by China as its first national ecological civilization pilot zone in June 2016.
The innovative approaches include a “river chief” mechanism that assigns specific steward along the waterway, intensive management of fragmented forest resources and development of smart fishing farm.
On October 12, 2018, retired Lin Jiashan, a former senior colonel, joined a team of voluntary “river chiefs” who were tasked with resource protection, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration.
At an accession ceremony in Datian county, Sanming city of Fujian province, he promised to make the utmost efforts to secure lucid rivers and lush mountains. Sitting on steep slopes of high mountains, the highly-populated county has been headache with water and soil erosion.
The county located in central Fujian was among the first places in the province to adopt a “river chief” scheme, and it also creatively introduced a voluntary campaign to encourage the public to join in the river protection drive.
The scheme introduced by the county in 2009 has prevented a soil loss of 42,700 tons and pushed the place another step closer to its vision of beautiful landscape with clear waters.
After three years of efforts, the county has set up a team composing of voluntary “river chiefs” and supervisors to protect resources, prevent and control pollution and restore ecological environment together.
The province also launched a project named “forest bank”, which allows intensive management of fragmented forest resources through trusteeship, buyout, lease and other ways. The first bank of such kind in the province was put into operation in Nanping city on December 3, 2018.
Xia Liuhua, the first customer of the ecological bank, has inked an agreement with the bank to deposit his 0.6 hectares of forest land. In the coming 20 years, he would get 3,720 yuan of earnings from the bank each year.
Upon the expiration of the mandatory period, Xia, the villager of Shunchang county, will also be offered with 60 percent of timber sales based on the market value and after a deduction of management costs.
The timber production under collective management is about 25 percent higher than that under fragmented operation, said Zhao Gangyuan, head of the county’s state forestry farm, adding that an operation by professional teams will not only raise ecological carrying capacity of the forest, but also increase its business value.
A program called “smart fishing farm” was launched by the province to upgrade the fishery ecosystem in Lianjiang county, the biggest producer of aquatic products in the province and the second largest one among the counties nationwide for 30-plus years.
The outdated and extensive model of offshore aquaculture has buried lurking peril for the costal ecological environment.
With an investment of 20 billion yuan, the program envisions to build a scaled and intelligent deep-sea breeding base by employing advanced marine equipment and technologies.
The county has found out an operation model connecting local government, businesses, financing platforms and fishermen together by reforming the marketization of eco-products, said Zhang Sheng, vice head of the county’s development and reform office.
With almost no input of government finance, the county generated a win-win result featured by growth of businesses, environmental protection and income increase of farmers, he added.
Those steps have made a greener Fujian. Data indicated that 66.8 percent of the provincial territory was covered by forest by 2018, topping the country for 40 years in a row.
As of the 12 rivers running through the province, the proportion their waters reaching Grade III or above was 24.8 percentage points higher than the national average. Only water at or above Grade III can be used for drinking, although treatment may be required.
In addition, the days with fine air quality were 15.7 percent more than national average. The density of PM2.5 — a measurement of fine particles in the air often used to gauge the severity of smog, was one third lower than the average figure countrywide.
A friendly ecosystem also cements the province’s advantages for growth. The province was put at the second place by China’s first regional green development index ranking, which took into account economic performance as well as various environmental indicators.

“River chief” Zhang Yuerun (1st in the left) is salvaging floating waste along the waterway in Fuding city, Fujian province on July 25, 2018. By the end of June 2018, 31 provinces nationwide have rolled out “river chief” scheme. River chiefs are responsible for resource protection, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration. (Photo: Xinhua)

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