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Transforming Development

Zhou Qiang
Party Secretary of Hunan Province and UNEP Champion of the Earth

Adopting a sustainable approach that both satisfies a society’s economic dynamics and protects the ecological environment has become a major international challenge. We in the province of Hunan, in central China, are determined to meet it, and will work with others across the world to do so.

Hunan is blessed with a high level of forest cover, along with an optimal climate and abundant rainfall — but it faces great environmental stresses with rapid industrialization and urbanization. In recent years, it has actively responded to calls to manage forests so as to increase their role as carbon sinks and partially counteract emissions of carbon dioxide covered by the Kyoto Protocol. In line with the Chinese Government’s requirements and action to accelerate the transformation of the country’s mode of development, Hunan’s basic principle and aim is green, low-carbon and sustainable economic and social development. Accordingly, we comprehensively are promoting a new style of industrialization, agricultural modernization, and urbanization. We are aiming to construct a resourcesaving and environmentlyfriendly society, focusing on building a ‘Green Hunan’.

Leading the people to love trees and forests is an essential part of this. For over 30 years, provincial leaders have been in the forefront both of voluntary tree planting and of mobilizing people throughout Hunan to engage in it — thus creating a multi-agent and multi-level afforestation programme. Zhangjiajie, a city in northwestern Hunan, has held the China International Forest Protection Festival — with the theme ‘Green for the Earth and Forests for Humanity’ for 14 consecutive years. It is not only one of China’s ten ecological festivals, but the only one featuring ‘forest protection’ as its theme.

“Those who own some properties and have greater perseverance”, as the ancient Chinese Scholar Mencius put it, “tend to plan both production and their livelihoods in a systematic way”. Since 2008 Hunan has been vigorously promoting the reform of the system of collective forest rights so as to protect the interests of tree farmers and entice them into both planting trees and protecting forests. As a result, they can all receive forestry land use certificates clarifying ownership and are encouraged to manage the land under contracts so that they can benefit from the orderly cutting of their own trees. This undertaking has greatly stimulated farmers’ enthusiasm: many treat trees tenderly like grain seedlings and are willing to plant them wherever there is empty unused land.

We are also determined to strengthen the environmental protection of forest in cities to counteract the effects of wood chopping and requisition of forest land during rapid urbanization. In addition, the province is making the Changsha-Zhuzhou- Xiangtan (CZT) city cluster a Vienna Forest — with tree cover greater than 45%— enacting legislation to safeguard Zhaoshan Mountain, the green heart of the city cluster, and protecting the core area by making it a pilot of a resource-conserving and environmentally-friendly society.

We are also attempting to turn the Xiangjiang River into an Oriental Rhine through comprehensive treatment of both it and Dongting Lake and by constructing a Xiangjiang River Scenic Belt. As a result, the CZT’s core ecological district will be in good custody, forest coverage will be increased and the wetlands of the Yangtze, Xiangjiang and other rivers will be conserved and well-protected.

Continuous efforts in building “Green Hunan” have yielded remarkable achievements. The forest land area of Hunan has reached 193 million mu (about 12.87 million hectares), with the addition of a total 402 million cubic meters of storage volume. Forest cover amounts to over 50%, and it absorbs 60 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. At the same time, over 90% of the province’s surface water meets drinking water standards, and the air of all its cities and prefectures has achieved the Second National Ambient Air Quality Standard. This ecological environment has attracted many well-known enterprises — both domestic and foreign — to invest in Hunan, in turn promoting rapid and sound social and economic development.

Achieving sustainable development calls for in-depth cooperation and joint efforts. These have global significance. Over recent years, for example, the Indonesian Government has adjusted its development strategy to enhance the protection of tropical rainforests, and it plans to plant 1.5 billion trees each year. This has enlightened our vision of building a ‘Green Hunan’. In turn, we are willing to share the experience we have gained in such fields such as forest protection and sustainable development with Indonesia and other countries and to further promote mutual exchange and cooperation in protecting the earth — the common homeland of humanity.

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