China to ban all logging of forests in distinctly green new five-year plan

The Communist Party has vowed to completely ban logging in natural forests for commercial purposes in the next five years.

In March, authorities announced plans to outlaw commercial logging in certain key zones around the country after the ban was piloted in Heilongjiang province last April.

The 13th five-year plan will now extend the ban nationwide, according to a communiqué on the party's recent policymaking session in Beijing was released by Xinhua yesterday afternoon.

READ MORE: China's new five-year plan aims to make the nation faster, better and stronger

Meanwhile, the "strictest water resource management system" to control water usage and prevent pollution was also written into the plan, Xinhua reported.

Nationwide monitoring of groundwater will be established in the next five years, including the "comprehensive governance of over-pumping of groundwater" and the introduction of more water recycling schemes.

The price of water will be adjusted as well to encourage residents to conserve water.

Beijing will introduce real-time environmental monitoring, and make certain data available for public scrutiny.

To avoid interference by local governments - many of which have conflicting interests - authorities hope to build a "cross-regional and vertically reported law enforcement system" to control pollution. Over the next five years, "green" would be a key governing concept across the country, Xu Shaoshi, head of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said yesterday.

Analysts said the move signalled the urgency the government now attached to environmental improvement and protection, and would help kill the myth that they pose obstacles to economic development.

"You can see now that environmental protection can exist alongside economic growth to create financial opportunities and help transform traditional industries," said Ma Jun, founder of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.

READ MORE: Snapshot of China's five-year plan as details revealed of blueprint for nation's development

"No such detailed plans for environment protection existed in the last five-year plan," Ma added.

The plan also includes the establishment of a green development fund to support industrial transformation and "green financing".

Greater support, such as new infrastructure, can be expected for public transport and new-energy vehicles.

Xu, of the NDRC, said that authorities would consider starting a sewage disposal trading scheme along the lines of the national emissions trading scheme.

"It basically urges the government, society and the market to all play a part in the green push," Ma said.

Environmentalists welcomed the measures, and expressed hope that aggressive efforts would finally help mitigate environmental degradation.

"We will see fundamental changes by 2020 if these measures are followed," Ma Yong, deputy director of the All-China Environment Federation, said.

Source URL: South China Morning Post