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China fishes for ecological solutions

Updated: 2013-12-08 15:32
( Xinhua)

HEFEI - Chu Chenglong, 56, started fish farming when he was young and never imagined that one day he would not be able to continue the business.

Starting from March this year, more than 60 of Chu's fish cages, along with those of other aquiculturists, have been removed from Foziling Reservoir in Huoshan county, Anhui province to protect the water from becoming contaminated.

The reservoir feeds the provincial capital Hefei, 140 kilometers away and the quality of the water from the reservoir directly affect thousands of people's drinking water safety.

Chu received 300,000 yuan compensation from the government and has no complaints. Like Chu, more than 200 people who used to culture fish in the reservoir received as much as 600,000 yuan as "ecological compensation".

China is speeding up ecological protection and dropping its pursuit of growth at all cost. Decades of industrialization and double-digit growth have left the country badly polluted. Last month's roadmap promised a sound system to protect the country's ecological environment.

The document proposed a "red line" for ecological protection, implementing a system of paid for use of resources and ecological compensation.

Analysts say the harmful smog, contaminated soil and poisoned water supplies all demand a valid system to protect the environment.

"The red line is to limit economic development of environmentally vulnerable regions, such as the river sources," said Xia Guang, director of Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy under the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

In fact, some regions including East China's Jiangsu province have already drawn their regional environmental protection red line. In Jiangsu, the conservation area takes up more than 20 percent of the provincial land.

In Northwest China's resource-rich Qinghai province, half of its land was included in the protection area. Gold mining was banned across the province except for two gold mines in Baima county and one in Chingdu county.

"Once a region is declared a protected area, local development should be achieved by ecological compensation,"said Xia.

In a pilot compensation program, the fund for protecting the Xin'an river is 500 million yuan (about $82 million) per year. The river rises in Anhui province and flows to Zhejiang. Anhui and Zhejiang both contribute 100 million yuan for the program.

If the water reaches the quality standard, the downstream Zhejiang will give Anhui 100 million yuan, if not, Anhui will give Zhejiang 100 million yuan. Regardless of the water quality, Anhui will receive 300 million yuan each year from the central government as compensation.

The program has been running for two years and the water quality remains excellent and stable.

"If there were no compensation mechanism, the protection of the Xin'an  would not be so thorough and systematic," Nie Weiping, chief of Xin'an protection bureau, said.

"The ecological compensation in November's communique is a highlight," Nie said, "however, the content of the compensation so far is still narrow, for example, maintenance and the lost opportunity costs are not included. Hopefully, the compensation content will be enlarged in the future.".

The ecoconstruction has become a bottleneck for growth so the central government's resolution to build a protection system is crucial, said Meng Wei, Dean of Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

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