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CPC Policies on the Governance of Xizang in the New Era: Approach and Achievements

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China November 2023

China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-11 12:11

V. Stronger Eco-Environmental Security Barrier

Xizang is one of China's important ecological barriers. Protecting the natural environment in Xizang will benefit the country and the people for thousands of years to come. In its efforts to become a national or even an international model in advancing eco-civilization, Xizang continues to prioritize eco-environmental conservation, follows a holistic approach to coordinating conservation and development, and pursues green and sustainable development. It will continue to deliver eco-environmental dividends while building a beautiful Xizang.

– Sound eco-environment

Orderly progress has been made in the development of eco-environmental function zones. Through proactive efforts, Changtang, Mount Qomolangma, Mount Kangrinboqe, Gaoligong Mountain and Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon have been included in China's Overall Plan of National Parks, and work to develop the system of nature reserves in Xizang has entered a new phase. Currently, there are 47 nature reserves of different types at all levels, which cover a total area of 412,200 square kilometers. According to the third national survey of territorial land, forests, grasslands, wetlands, water regions and other lands with stronger eco-environmental functions amount to 1.08 million square kilometers. The establishment of the Sanjiangyuan National Park (the section north of the Tanggula Mountain) has contributed to the protection and restoration of the river sources in China, such as the source areas of the Yangtze and Lancang rivers.

Biodiversity on the plateau has gradually improved. From 2016 to 2022, 8.32 million mu (554,666 hectares) of forests were planted in Xizang. It has achieved "double growth" in both forest and grassland vegetation coverage. There are 1,072 terrestrial wild vertebrate species in Xizang, including 65 species of wild animals under national Grade-I protection such as the snow leopard, wild yak, Tibetan antelope, black-necked crane and Yunnan golden snub-nosed monkey, and 152 species of wild animals under national Grade-II protection. Xizang has the largest population of large and medium-sized wild animal species in China. It has recorded 7,504 species of vascular plants; nine of these are under national Grade-I protection, including Cupressus gigantea and Taxus wallichiana, and 148 species are under national Grade-II protection. According to the second national survey on terrestrial animals and plants, the number of Tibetan antelopes increased from over 70,000 in the 1990s to over 300,000, wild yaks from under 10,000 to over 20,000, and black-necked cranes from under 3,000 to over 10,000. The Tibetan red deer, once considered extinct by the international community, has now come back, and its numbers have grown to over 800 from over 200 at the time of its rediscovery. Five new animal species such as the white-cheeked macaque, five new wildlife species in China, and one new wild plant species of Chaetoseris iyriformis Shif have been discovered.

The living environment continues to improve. Since 2016, the proportion of days with excellent or good air quality in Xizang has reached over 99 percent each year. The air quality in main towns and cities has, on the whole, remained excellent or good, and the concentrations of six pollutants in seven prefecture-level administrative units has reached the state Grade-II standards or above. The air quality in the Mount Qomolangma area continues to be rated as excellent or good, reaching the state Grade-I standards. In 2022, Lhasa ranked first among the 168 key cities in China in terms of air quality, and Nyingchi and Qamdo both enjoyed excellent air quality all year round. The major rivers and lakes report good water quality. The water quality of main streams of the Jinsha River, Yarlung Zangbo River, Lancang River and Nujiang River has reached Grade-II standards, that of the Lhasa River, Nyangchu River and Nyang River that run through major towns and cities reached Grade-II standards or above, that of the Rongpo River that originates from Mount Qomolangma reached Grade-I standards, and that of the Pangong Tso, Yamzho Yumco and Nam Co lakes reached Grade-III standards. The quality of the drinking water sources in prefecture-level cities has all reached the required standards. Thanks to its comprehensive control of soil pollution, the soil environment in Xizang is generally maintained in its original natural state and is safe in quality.

– Complementary eco-environmental protection and economic development

The green, low-carbon industry has grown in strength. Xizang has accelerated the building of a national clean energy base, and clean energy now makes up 90 percent of the installed power generation capacity. It has thus contributed to China's targets for peak carbon emissions and carbon neutrality. Xizang has developed plateau green farming and animal husbandry, producing 1,014 different pollution-free, green or organic farm products or agro-products with geographical indications. Pagri yak and Yadong black fungus ranked among the Top 100 Farm Produce in China. Gyaca walnuts, Lhünze black highland barley, and Markam grapes have been listed as "pollution-free, green, organic farm products or agro-products with geographical indications", and are beginning to be recognized by more consumers.

Eco-environmental conservation has produced results. The Plan for Protection and Building of Ecological Security Barriers in Xizang (2008-2030) has been implemented. Greening projects for the basins of the Yarlung Zangbo, Nujiang, Lhasa, Nyangchu, Yalong and Shiquan rivers and for areas near residential houses, roads, farmlands and waters have been executed, with emphasis on eco-environmental restoration and green construction. During the construction of the Zam Hydropower Station on the Yarlung Zangbo River, a 2.6-kilometer-long fish migration channel was built, and fry breeding and release events were organized each year on a large scale. All these efforts have effectively secured the living and breeding conditions for rare plateau fish species. During the construction of the Lhasa-Xigaze Railway, fine tree species were selected to ensure the survival of turf and trees and efforts were made to stop and fix the sand dunes near the railway line. In addition, elevated passages were opened at major sections for the migration of wild animals. During the construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi Railway, the largest winter habitat was well conserved for the black-necked cranes.

– New measures to accelerate eco-environmental progress

The autonomous region has continued to improve the eco-environmental governance system. A series of policies, regulations and statutes have been promulgated and implemented, including the Plan on Eco-environmental Protection and Sustainable Development on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Law of the People's Republic of China on Ecological Conservation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and Regulations on Developing National Ecocivilization Model in the Xizang Autonomous Region. Xizang follows a holistic approach to the integrated conservation and systematic management of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands, deserts and glaciers. A responsibility system has been introduced by which the responsibility for protecting rivers, lakes, forests and grasslands is assigned to specific persons with the title of chiefs. Since 2017, Xizang has enforced the strictest water resource administration system and established a "river/lake chief + procurator-general + police chief" coordinating mechanism, to strengthen the management of water bodies and shorelines, keep rivers and lakes healthy, and achieve their sustained utilization. A comprehensive system of forest chiefs has also been introduced across the region to establish a long-term mechanism for the protection and development of forest and grassland resources that addresses problems at source and covers the whole area. Under Party leadership, responsibilities are jointly assumed by local Party committees and governments supported by coordination of relevant departments. Cooperation with neighboring provinces and autonomous regions also has been reinforced in this regard. In 2020, Xizang signed a cooperation agreement with Qinghai and Yunnan provinces on establishing a joint prevention and control mechanism for water pollution emergencies in the upper and lower reaches of inter-provincial river basins. In 2021, it worked out an implementation document with Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps on establishing a cross-provincial cooperation mechanism for judicial eco-environmental protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and its surrounding areas, which will facilitate the coordinated protection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Xizang has also improved the monitoring and performance assessment system and strengthened the auditing of leading officials on their management responsibilities for natural resources. Thirty-five procuratorial liaison offices have been set up in 11 national nature reserves to handle public-interest litigation related to eco-environmental protection and to strengthen the capacity for law enforcement.

Great progress has been registered in scientific surveys and technological breakthroughs. The central government has launched the second comprehensive scientific survey on water, the eco-environment, and human activities on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and conducted a thorough analysis of local environmental changes and their mechanisms. This has generated a number of original theories in international frontier fields of geoscience and life sciences and substantially increased knowledge about the plateau. It has also stepped up efforts to build platforms for scientific research on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and built the Xizang Branch of the National Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau Data Center. Research results have provided technological support for protecting the plateau's eco-environment, addressing climate change, preventing and controlling natural disasters, and promoting green development.

Since 2012, the region has conducted research on core technologies and application demos in relation to climate change impact and biodiversity conservation, among others, and a number of innovative applications have emerged. Breakthroughs have been made in the treatment of degraded grassland vegetation — a key technology in research on restoring typical degraded plateau ecosystems. Ten new technologies, methods and techniques have been produced as a result. A demonstration project of a multi-dimensional network of the earth system for ecological conservation, restoration and governance was completed in Lhasa, providing a systematic plan for ecological conservation, restoration and governance. In order to optimize the national system of ecological security barriers and achieve the national goal of carbon neutrality, the region has taken systematic measures to protect and restore mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands, deserts and glaciers, and investigated changes in the ecosystems of the Tibetan Plateau and its role as a carbon sink.

Xizang has established its first germplasm resource center and conserved 8,458 items of germplasm covering 2,047 species, a fundamental support to the protection of biodiversity. Researchers have worked out a system for utilizing solid waste and biomass on the plateau with low-carbon energy, which would reduce the costs of solid waste and biomass processing by 15 percent and environmental pollution by more than 75 percent. Research findings have been rolled out in neighboring provinces including Qinghai, generating an overall economic benefit of nearly RMB300 million.

– Eco-environmental dividends

Eco-environmental conservation mechanisms play an increasingly important role. Since 2018, more than RMB4.93 billion have been invested in the integrated protection and restoration of mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands, deserts and glaciers. An eco-environmental conservation and compensation mechanism has been put in place that covers forest, wetland, grassland, and water ecosystems. The amount paid for eco-environmental compensation in 2012 was RMB3.7 billion and it quickly increased to RMB16.1 billion in 2022.

Xizang has shifted its focus from poverty alleviation to bringing prosperity to local people through eco-environmental conservation. From 2016 to 2022, 537,700 eco-environmental conservation jobs were created on average each year, and a total of RMB12.64 billion was paid in eco-environmental compensation. The development of eco-environmental businesses and the carbon sink economy has helped local people find green jobs or start green businesses. By the end of 2022, the number of rural family hotels and homestays had reached 2,377, receiving 12.74 million visits and generating revenues of almost RMB1.59 billion. Some 64,000 farmers and herders worked directly or indirectly for the rural tourism business, leading to a per capita rise of more than RMB4,500 in income.

An eco-friendly lifestyle has become popular. A new plateau eco-culture has taken shape in which people pursue harmony between humanity and nature and value sustainable development. Nyingchi City has been recognized as a national-level forest city, and 11 cities/counties including the Bomi County in Nyingchi City, the Qonggyai County in Shannan City and Jomda County in Qamdo City have become national ecocivilization demonstration zones. Bayi District in Nyingchi, Lhünze County in Shannan and Dagdong Village of Liuwu New District in Lhasa have been listed as bases for implementing the eco-environmental philosophy that "Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets". Since 2016, thanks to the Research and Development of Key Technologies for Afforestation and Greening Model Demonstration Project in Nagqu Prefecture (now Nagqu City), the region has selected and cultivated some high-resistance tree species, such as Salix bangongensis, Salix cupularis, dragon spruce, and Hippophae gyantsensis, which have been planted on more than 200 mu (about 14 hectares) of land. It is no longer the case that no tree could ever survive in the harsh conditions of Nagqu. Many farmers and herders now plant and protect trees rather than cutting them down. These rich eco-environmental resources are becoming the "real estate for a happy life" that the local people can see and keep.

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