Hainan: Building a Green Island

2018-06-04 14:18:00 Source:China Today Author:ZHANG LIJUAN
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STROLLING through the belt-shape wetland park in Qiongzhong Li and Miao Autonomous County is a truly wonderful experience, offering beautiful scenery and a serene environment. However, most people don’t know that just a few years ago, the park was an uncultivated land with nothing more than a discarded pond.

Similarly, just south of the bustling railway station of Haikou, the capital of Hainan, lies a green wetland, which was transformed from a waste yard in 2017.

Hainan Province has long been a front-runner among Chinese provinces for its work in maintaining a healthy and green ecological environment. For example, in 2017, the average density of PM 2.5, the main component of urban pollution, was just 18 micrograms per cubic meter in Hainan; significantly lower than other regions, but still did not meet the standard set by the provincial government.


Improving the Environment

“Ecological issues are usually overlooked if the environment is generally good enough. Due to this mentality, government officials and companies tend to pay less attention to environmental protection,” said Deng Xiaogang, head of Hainan’s environmental protection department. He said that there is still some big development gap between Hainan and other mature tourist destinations in foreign countries.

Hainan’s ecological environment is one of the best in China.

According to Deng, the major pollutants on the island are motor vehicle exhaust and flying dust particles. The first is attributed to the increasing number of motor vehicles and excess emission from outdated diesel vehicles. The latter mainly comes from construction sites and roadwork. Regarding the water environment, pollutants and waste can be spotted in rivers, enclosed lakes, brooks that pour into the sea, and offshore marine areas.

 To combat these environmental challenges, Hainan plans to tackle pollution in three distinct ways. First, to deal with air pollution, the government has implemented a slew of measures, including adopting the China VI emission standard by the end of September 2018, gradually taking high-emission vehicles off the road, and encouraging medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles to install particle purification systems over the next two to three years.

The second measure aims to tackle water pollution. So far, 126 bodies of water have been identified on the island, including enclosed lakes and rivers, rivers emptying into the sea, and offshore waters. Efforts will be taken to ensure that the water quality of all bodies of water is above National Grade V.

The final plan is to strengthen the infrastructure in environmental protection. The island’s current facilities are failing to meet the needs to treat increasing sewage and waste, including solid and hazardous wastes, both in cities and rural areas. A higher proportion of the budget will be allocated to improving the efficiency of sewage and refuse disposal.

Protecting the Ocean

Marine environments are generally much more complex than land environments, posing a greater challenge in protecting them. According to a coastal area cleanup campaign in 2015 and a national marine area inspection in 2017, Hainan faced several serious problems, such as illegal sea reclamation, pollution from land-based sources, coastline encroachment, aquaculture pollution, destruction of coastal protection forests, and destruction of fishery resources.

As a big island province, Hainan has intensified efforts to protect and develop its marine environment. In 2015, it carried out a comprehensive investigation on its 1,823-km-long coastline, and dealt with 805 illegal cases. In 2017, the Hainan provincial government established higher standards for marine protection. Measures were taken to strengthen marine environmental management, comprehensive management of the ocean and islands, and ecological protection and restoration.

To achieve this, a correlative mechanism between land and sea pollution prevention and management was established to improve the comprehensive protection and restoration of land-marine ecosystems. Efforts included slashing the number of fishing boats, and implementing a quota system for inshore fishing. Aquafarms in mudflats and offshore areas are now controlled and managed in a strict, scientific way. A few areas are now off-limits to developing aquaculture. In places with vulnerable ecosystems and coastal tourism zones, aquafarms will be gradually reverted back to forests, wetlands, and sea.

To better protect the coves, the heads of local governments are designated “cove chiefs” who are accountable for the cove environment management and protection. The shipping industry is encouraged to utilize more sustainable methods of development and pollution caused by ships and harbors is under strict control.

“For Hainan, protecting both the land and marine ecosystem should be the number one priority,” said Liu Cigui, secretary of the Hainan Provincial Committee of the CPC. “A good ecology is really important to Hainan, and good marine ecology is vital for the province’s further development.”


A Village’s Green Development

About 11 km from downtown Haikou City is a small village called Shicha, situated at the foot of Ma’anling Volcano. It boasts a mild climate and selenium-rich volcanic ash which is beneficial for the growth of a rare herb, dendrobium. In a traditional dendrobium plantation, thousands of economic and ornamental trees are planted, such as rosewood, Chinese eaglewood trees, bischofia polycarpa, and pawpaw trees. Animals like squirrels, pheasants, and lizards frequently visit the planation, in turn also drawing more tourists.

Turning plantations into tourism sites is a part of the village’s future plan, said Hong Yiqian, head of the villagers’ committee. He added that they are also committed to developing an industrial chain around dendrobium, for example, using it for drinks, wine, and cosmetics. In addition, they also plan to register a geographical trademark for their agricultural products, including dendrobium, coffee, and black beans, to highlight the volcanic feature of their brands.

A few years ago, Shicha Village built a 20-km-long road linking eight hamlets, five volcanic vents, and nine karst caves. Nowadays, visitors like to ride bikes along this road, taking in the fresh air and enjoying the unique scenery.

Hong Yiqian believes Shicha Village will prosper with more green development. “Mountains, waters, forests, farmland, lakes, and grasslands are all part of our community,” said Hong.


Environment Assessment

In recent years, Hainan Province has vetoed and shut down hundreds of projects which failed to meet environmental protection standards.

The province also quantitatively evaluated ecological protection, which became a key part of the government’s performance assessment and received public supervision. By 2020, the province vows to increase the forest coverage to no less than 62 percent, have at least 98 percent of a year with good air quality, and clean up at least 95 percent of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, and at least 95 percent of offshore seawaters.

These figures represent the minimum standards for Hainan’s future goals, said Deng Xiaogang. “The key is to implement measures in both living and production modes, and form a comprehensive system that the government, enterprises, and the public all participate in,” he said.

From August to September of 2017, the central government carried out an environmental protection inspection in Hainan. Using this opportunity, the province scrutinized its ecological and environmental situation. Within a month, 360 people were interviewed, and 246 were held accountable for actions which negatively affected the environment.

Hainan also plans to establish an ecological compensation system. Under this performance-oriented system, those who damage the environment will be held responsible under penalty of law, those who benefit from the environmental protection will pay to use it, and those who protect the environment will receive compensation.    


ZHANG LIJUAN is a reporter with China Report.

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