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Tibet's Environment Well Preserved

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Tibet's environment has been well preserved in its economic development and modernization, said a report published on Monday by the Beijing-based China Tibetology Research Center.

"In China, Tibet is the place nearest to the sky and furthest away from pollution," read the Report on the Economic and Social Development of Tibet.

According to the report, China has attached more importance to ecological building, environmental protection and sustainable development in Tibet in recent years, as it planned to make Tibet a "protective screen for regional ecological security" by 2030.

The central government would invest nearly 20 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) to build a protective screen program during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), the report said.

A number of environment-friendly regulations were issued to curb the damage of construction projects to the environment, charge fees for discharging industrial wastes, accelerate afforestation and protect the bio-diversity in the region.

As a result, the air quality of Lhasa, regional capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, was noticeably better than that of the other big cities in China, according to the report.

In 2007, more than 98 percent of the days in Lhasa registered with "excellent" or "good" air quality, with only seven days registered as "slightly polluted."

The human afforested area in the region jumped from 868 hectares in 1990 hectares to 19,069 in 2007, including 13,132 hectares of shelter forests which plays an important role in ecological protection, the report said.

In addition, the biodiversity in Tibet was well protected, it said. "Since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, not one species in Tibet has been found to have suffered extinction." Tibet also boasted 20 nature reserves, including nine at the national level and 11 at the regional level, with a total area of 41.26 million hectares, or 34.8 percent of the land area of Tibet.

The report said Tibet has relied on environment-friendly industries, including tourism and Tibetan medicine and pharmacology, to ensure economic growth and sustainable development.

Tourism made up 5.7 percent of the region's GDP in 2008, compared with 0.2 percent in 1990, and the output value of Tibet's medical and pharmaceutical industry also registered a 1.6-fold increase from 2000 to 2008, the report said.

Tibet stressed the exploitation and utilization of water energy while exploring and introducing other types of ecological energy resources. Though rich in mineral resources, the region strictly limited the mining of mineral resources to protect the environment and resources, it said.

Top priority was also given to environmental protection and ecological security in the initial period of the building of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, which has not only promoted the economic growth of Tibet, but also managed to protect the ecological environment.

The report noted that more than more than 90 percent of Tibet's financial revenue and over 70 percent of its fixed assets input rely on the central government's financial transfers, as well as assistance from other provinces and cities. Such aid alleviated resources consumption and environmental pressure caused by regional development, and playing an irreplaceable role in the environmental protection and ecological improvement of Tibet.

"While pursuing rapid economic growth, Tibet has also gained remarkable achievements in protecting its ecological environment, making a striking contrast to the view that 'Tibet's ecological environment has been destroyed' held by a handful of people in the world," the report said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 31, 2009)