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Govt pledges to redouble efforts to protect, restore environment

China will cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 3 percent this year and bring about a steady decline in the concentration of fine airborne particles in key areas, according to Premier Li Keqiang.

"We have established the notion that clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets, and have acted with resolve and intensity as never before to strengthen environmental protection," Li said on Monday while delivering the Government Work Report at the annual legislative session.

Significant achievements have been made over the past five years, he said, noting that both energy and water consumption per unit of GDP have fallen more than 20 percent. Emissions of major pollutants have consistently declined, and the number of days with heavy air pollution in key cities has been halved, he said.

Forested areas have increased by almost 11 million hectares nationwide, and desertification has decreased by an average 2,000 square kilometers annually, he added.

Li said the government will redouble its efforts to protect and restore ecosystems, and complete the task of setting red lines for ecological conservation across the country.

This year, around 6.7 million hectares of land is expected to be forested.

China will also encourage upgrades in industries, including steelmaking, to achieve ultralow emissions, and continue its efforts to prevent and control water and soil pollution.

Chemical oxygen demand and ammonia nitrogen emissions will be cut by 2 percent, he said.

"The premier's report was very encouraging," said Shi Xiaoming, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. "Great achievements have been made in the past five years, and ecological improvement is one of them."

On air pollution control, China has outperformed its targets, which shows the resolve of government, he said.

Shi is a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and deputy director of a national joint research center on air pollution causes and control.

He said scientific and technological innovation, which Li also emphasized in the report, have played an increasingly important role in China's pollution control work thanks to government investment.

"Some countries have seen pollution like China faces today. The pollution they faced, however, didn't affect areas as large as in China," he said.

"So there are few pollution control experiences from other countries to which China can refer. This makes technology development very important."

Ma Quanlin, a member of the 13th CPPCC National Committee from Gansu province and director of the Gansu Desert Control Research Institute, noted increases in government investment in the province.

He said Gansu has many opportunities to combine poverty relief work with ecological projects sponsored by the government. Many poor residents have been working as forest rangers and can earn 8,000 yuan ($1,260) a year, he said. China's poverty line is 2,300 yuan annually.


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