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The Action Guideline Instructing the Environmental Protection Work in the 11th "Five-Year" Plan Period: Special Interview with SEPA Vice Minister Zhou Jian

The State Council issued the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Environmental Protection on November 22, which marked a major event in the environmental protection work of China. With questions like how to properly grasp the connotation and essence of this Plan, actively materialize the Plan and fully enhance the environmental protection work during the 11th "Five-Year" Plan period in mind, our correspondent made an interview with the Vice Minister of the SEPA, Mr. Zhou Jian recently.

Q: The State Council just issued the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Environmental Protection as a State Council Document. How would you comment on this move?

A: The State Council issued the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Environmental Protection (hereinafter referred to as the Plan) on November 22, 2007. This is the first time that the State Council issues a special plan in the form of State Council Document, marking a milestone in the environmental protection history of China. It is an overarching document to further implementing the scientific outlook on development, establishing socialist harmonious society and instructing the coordinated economic, social and environmental development of China in light of the gist of the 17th National Congress of the CPC and in adherence to the Deng Xiaoping Theory and "three represents". It identifies the guiding thoughts, striving goals, key tasks and major moves in the development of the environmental protection undertaking of China during the 11th "Five-Year" Plan period, depicts the glorious blueprint of the development of environmental protection cause during the second "Five-Year" period in the new millennium and is the program of action for mobilizing all the personnel of the environmental protection working system to accelerate the fulfillment of the historic transformation. It is the central task for us to thoroughly learn and master the gist of the Plan, accurately grasp its connotation and essence and carefully materialize various targets and tasks set down in the Plan in the next 5-15 years.

Q: You just mentioned that the Plan has marked a milestone in the environmental protection history of China. Would you please elaborate more on the significance of the implementation of the Plan?

A: the implementation of the Plan is a major move in the transformation of economic growth pattern and full implementation of the scientific outlook on development, important guarantee for safeguarding the direct interests of the people and establishing socialist harmonious society and urgent request for realizing the development target in the new stage and establishing a well-off society in full scale. It has crucial significance to further implementing the deployment of the Central Committee of the CPC and the State Council on environmental protection works under the new situation, promoting the sound and fast development of national economy, earnestly addressing prominent environmental problems jeopardizing public health and affecting economic and social sustainable development and the building of a resource-saving and environment-friendly society. Meanwhile, it is also an effective means to encourage the whole society to participate in environmental protection work and building up the conservation culture.

Q: compared with previous plans, what are the special features of this Plan? What are the connotation and essence of it?

A: The Plan is rich in contents and profound in connotation, and it is the specific, pinpointed and work related extension of the Guidelines of the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of China, the Decision of the State Council on the Implementation of the Outlook on Scientific Development and Strengthening Environmental Protection as well as the overall deployment made at the Sixth National Conference on Environmental Protection. In light of the overarching concept of scientific outlook on development, highlighting the acceleration of the historic transformation, the Plan follows the principle of general consideration of overall enhancement and key point penetration, stresses the practice of letting ecologically vulnerable rivers and lakes have a rest and translates the principle into real contents of every part. In specific, the Plan puts forward 8 major fields and 36 pieces of major tasks and aims to implement 10 environmental protection key projects and materialize 8 securing measures to meet the targets set in the Plan centered on the key target of controlling the discharge of major pollutants.

The Plan has 4 specials features: first, it simplifies related indicators by underscoring two constraining indicators while accommodating to the control of other pollutants as well as environmental quality indicators. Second, it highlights the key points by putting the reduction of the discharge of major pollutants as the core target while identifying 8 key tasks. It places the prevention of water, air and soil pollution, especially the protection of drinking water sources at a more prominent strategic position. Third, it nails down the source of capital by prioritizing 4 major projects closely related to pollution discharge reduction while giving due consideration to other projects relating to the fulfillment of the Plan. In particular, it touches upon the strengthening of capacity building of environmental supervision for the first time. Fourth, it adds the content of climate change with a more active attitude towards the protection of global environment, demonstrating the international image of China as a responsible country and responsible government.

The connotation and the essence of the Plan can be summarized as adhering to one guiding thought, sticking to one working consideration, identifying one planning target, prioritizing one capacity building and caring for one new field.

Adhering to one guiding thought means that we must resolutely carry out the environmental protection works during the 11th "Five-Year" Plan period properly with the key on the guiding thought of expediting the historic transformation. Sticking to one working consideration means that we should treat pollution prevention and control and safeguarding drinking water safety for urban and rural residents as the top task with the core target of reducing the total discharge volume of major pollutants by 10% and stick to the overall consideration of full-scale enhancement with key point penetration of environmental protection works under the new situation. Identifying one planning target means that by 2010, the discharge volume of SO2 and COD must be brought under basic control, environmental quality of major regions and cities should be improved to a certain degree, the trend of ecological deterioration should be basically checked, and nuclear and radioactive environmental safety be secured. Prioritizing one capacity building refers to the active implementation of the capacity building project on environmental supervision, while caring for one new field stands for the control of green house gases.

Q: The targets, tasks and measures of the Plan have already been laid down with heavy work loads. Finally, please comment on the major tasks of environmental protection at present and in the near future.

A: Environmental protection involves numerous fields of economy, politics, culture and the society. It is a complicated system project requiring unified planning with overall consideration, the seeking of both temporary solution and permanent cure and integrated treatment in a bid to achieve the goal of environmental betterment in different stages. The major environmental protection tasks at present and in the near future are as follows: first, we should break down the indicators and tasks set down in the Plan to all the provinces, autonomous regions and related departments under the State Council and establish strict accountability system in this regard. Second, we should fully translate various measures of program-based reduction, structural-related reduction and management-related reduction into real action with the core task of pollution discharge reduction in a bid to fulfill the target of 10% emission reduction. Third, we must upgrade environmental access standard, further and expand the covering scope of "project prohibition with certain areas" so as to standardize, legalize and regularize such a practice. Those heavily-polluting projects that severely violate environmental laws and exceed total discharge volume control target must be rigidly prohibited from construction or putting into operation. Fourth, we must earnestly strengthen the water pollution prevention and control of rivers and lakes so as to let those ecologically vulnerable rivers and lakes have a rest. Fifth, we should deepen the prevention and control efforts of industrial pollution, adopt environment-related economic policies and measures on pricing, credit, investment, finance and taxation as well as trade to boost the practice of clean production and circular economy and to control pollution from the source and within the whole production process. Sixth, we should fully deploy the environmental protection work in rural areas, actively prevent and control the pollution of large-scale poultry and husbandry breeding and agricultural non-point source pollution and prevent the transfer of industrial and urban-based pollution to rural areas. We should strive to control the discharge volume of major pollutants, fully step up the environmental protection infrastructure construction and substantially improve the supervision and inspection capacity of environmental protection in rural areas within three years.

(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)

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