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China to protect quarter of land from development by 2020

[SHANGHAI] China aims to keep a quarter of its land off-limits for development by 2020 and increase forest coverage to more than 23 per cent of its total landmass, the country's cabinet said.

At least 25 per cent of China's land would be protected by the country's new "ecological red line" scheme by the end of this decade, The State Council said on Sunday.

China has published a slew of policy documents in recent months aimed at improving surveillance, strengthening law enforcement and raising industrial standards as it plans to extend its war on pollution until 2020.

It has already ordered provinces to draw up detailed plans to curb construction and "irrational development" near rivers, forests and national parks.

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It is also putting the finishing touches to a 2018-2020 air quality action plan aimed at cutting smog in key industrial regions, and will extend the fight to the major coal-producing provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi.

China would ensure that more than 70 per cent of its water supplies were fit for human contact by the end of 2020 and cut the volumes of "below grade V" water - which is so polluted it has "lost function" - to less than 5 percent, the cabinet said. The number stood at 8.3 per cent last year.

In a speech in May, Chinese president Xi Jinping vowed to use the full might of the Communist Party to tackle long-standing pollution problems, and said China's environment would be "fundamentally improved" by 2035.

Regions that have failed to reach local air quality targets are under pressure to cut 2015 concentrations of hazardous floating particles known as PM2.5 by more than 18 per cent by the end of 2020, the cabinet said.

The country aims to reduce 2015 levels of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide by 15 per cent, it said, while targeting small-scale "scattered pollution" sources such as diesel trucks, backyard workshops or rural heating boilers.

The country would achieve its goal of creating a "beautiful China" by 2035 through the transformation of its "industrial structure", production methods and even lifestyle, the State Council said. 

Reuters

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