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Coal city gaining fruits from greener outlook

Author:gzstcj  From:CHINA DAILY Time:2019-03-17 Browse:  Size: Big Middle Small

Shaking off its dependence on environmentally damaging industries such as coal mining, Liupanshui in Guizhou province has turned to new sectors and environmental restoration for sustainable growth, according to the city's mayor, Li Gang.

As a local "green" tradition, thousands of local officials go to the mountains to plant trees on the first working day after the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, said Li, also a deputy to the 13th National People's Congress, on the sidelines of the ongoing two sessions.

Li, who was born in 1972 and became the city's mayor in 2017, said: "Only 7.6 percent of the city's area was covered by forests in the 1980s, although it is a mountainous place. And particulate matter in the air was more than four times higher than the national standard during that period."

The terrible environment was partly a result of the local economy's reliance on coal mining, power generation, iron and steel production and construction materials for decades, he said.

Li said the city was established in 1978 mainly for coal mining. It has an explored coal reserve of 22 billion metric tons.

"We have been making great efforts to transform and upgrade the economy in recent years, but I think we should still rely on traditional sectors for the next 20 to 30 years, or the local economy will collapse," he said, adding that upgrading traditional sectors is the city's priority.

"To make traditional sectors more environmentally friendly, we have invested heavily in applying advanced equipment and cutting emissions," he said, adding that Liupanshui is also eager to build new growth engines.

"New sectors, including new materials, new energy, tourism equipment manufacturing, food processing and modern logistics, are now playing an increasingly important role in the local economic growth," he said.

Tourism has also been developing rapidly thanks to the improving environment.

The city's forest coverage had surged to 59 percent by the end of last year, while 96 percent of the days in the city in 2018 had good air quality, according to the national air quality evaluation system.

"The city had an annual tourism income of more than 30 billion yuan ($4.47 billion) last year," said Li.

The mountainous landscape also poses great difficulties for farmers. Among the 310,000 hectares of arable land in Liupanshui, 97 percent is located on hills and mountains, so that most of the farmers can only grow potatoes and corn. The geographical conditions also mean that it is difficult to use agricultural machinery in the area.

"So we decided to find a comprehensive solution to boost the agriculture sector," said Li, who learnt that such a landscape could be good for fruit trees.

As a result, more than 240,000 hectares of agricultural land in the area is now used for growing fruit and tea.

Under the fruit trees, there are also 139,000 hectares of other plants, such as herbs.

These efforts have paid off by lifting 93,000 households, or 304,800 people, out of poverty in 2018 alone.

Contact the writers at zhulixin@chinadaily.com.cn

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