China's environmental outlook bleakens
BEIJING, China -- China needs to place more attention on environmental protection as a growing population and rapid urbanization threaten to wreak havoc on an already perilous ecological balance, Premier Zhu Rongji has warned.
Speaking to environmental planners, Zhu said that China's environmental outlook was not optimistic, state media reported Thursday.
Zhu said that a 360 billion yuan ($43.5 billion) environmental protection program between 1996 and 2000 had tentatively contained the continuing trend of ecological and environmental degradation.
But environmental pollution in some areas was going from bad to worse, the People's Daily quoted the Chinese premier as saying.
Zhu stressed that all levels of government needed to play a major role in environmental protection.
Environmental authorities had to lift their performance and not be lax in their enforcement, he added.
Though he did not outlay the government's planned expenditure for the 10th five-year environmental protection plan (2001-2005), Zhu did say that waste management, and greener construction and infrastructure projects were key to curbing a worsening problem.
Also targeted was reducing or restricting the practice of selling old and polluting industrial equipment to China's poorer regions and improving the quality of drinking water in rural and urban areas.
Zhu also called on "China's people" to become involved in an afforestation program to make the country "more greener and beautiful", the People's Daily reported.
Speaking at a separate meeting on forestation, Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao added that 35 billion trees had been planted through volunteer afforestation programs in the last 20 years.
However, Zhu said that China was still afflicted by areas of scarce vegetation, which is leading to increased desertification and land erosion.
Behind Japan, China has the highest demand for tropical hardwood in Asia.
Areas of western Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet, which include the important headwaters of the Salween, Bharmaputra, Mekong and Yangtze Rivers continue to be deforested in order to supply China's insatiable demand for timber.
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