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China to Pilot Ecological Compensation System

China's environment watchdog is to launch a pilot trial for a national ecological compensation system for natural reserves, mineral resources, and rivers, an environmental official said on Tuesday.

"The ecological compensation system is an important economic policy on environmental protection that adjusts the interest between ecological protection and economic construction," said an official with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), who declined to be named.

He said the pilot program was aimed at helping people living around natural reserves to change lifestyles if necessary so as to reduce the environmental pressure caused by human activities. China has 2,349 natural reserves, covering about 1.5 million square kilometers, or 15 percent of its land area.

"Adopting economic polices to protect the environment is the most effective approach to curbing environmental pollution and economic policies are easier to be institutionalized," he said.

An overall evaluation on the impact of surrounding construction on natural reserves would also be conducted, according to the SEPA.

Government departments would draft a scientific ecological compensation system on mineral resource exploitation and establish an "inter-regional coordinated mechanism" to protect river networks, the official said, adding local governments should select areas to implement the system.

The SEPA had studied the compensation system since the 1990s and piloted an ecology compensation fee collection system in 24 state-level natural reserves in 685 counties of 11 provinces.

The SEPA also calls on the Ministry of Commerce, the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission to cooperate in the formation of economic policies including, tax, insurance and security policies.

"With joint efforts, we will be able to work out all the needed economic policies in one year, finish pilot programs of such polices in two years and establish preliminary mechanism for new reforms in four years for the protection of environment," the SEPA official said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 12, 2007)

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