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UPDATED: September 8, 2015
Full Text: Successful Practice of Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet

VIII. Promoting Ecological Progress

Tibet is an important ecological safety barrier in China. Over past decades, in keeping with economic, social and natural laws, Tibet has followed a sustainable path compatible with the harmonious coexistence of economy, society, and the ecological environment. In recent years, with the strategic objectives of building an ecological safety barrier as well as an ecologically healthy and beautiful Tibet, the regional government has drawn up systematic plans to build and protect Tibet's ecological environment.

Plans to build and protect Tibet as an ecological safety barrier have been carried out. On February 18, 2009, the 50th executive meeting of the State Council deliberated and approved the Plan for Ecological Safety Barrier Protection and Improvement in Tibet (2008-2030), aiming to complete building the Tibet ecological safety barrier by 2030 with an investment of 15.5 billion yuan. So far, 5.646 billion yuan has been spent on the project. The 10 projects in three categories specified in the Plan, including natural grassland protection, forest fire prevention and pest control operation, wild animal and plant protection and nature reserves construction, key wetland protection, energy substitution program in agricultural and pastoral areas, shelterbelt network building, man-made grassland and deteriorated pastureland improvement, desertification control, water and soil conservation, and ecological safety barrier monitoring, are in full swing.

Biological diversity and key ecological reserves are under effective protection. Currently, Tibet has 47 nature reserves, which cover 412,200 sq km, or 34.35 percent of the total land area of the entire Region. It has also set up 22 ecological reserves (two at state level), four state level scenic spots, nine national forest parks, 10 national wetland parks, and four geological parks (three at state level), wherein 141 wild animal species and 38 species of wild plants are under state protection, 196 indigenous animal species, and 855 indigenous plants and important ecological systems are under effective protection. The large and medium-sized wildlife populations of Tibet lead the country: numbers of Tibetan antelopes have grown from 50,000 to 70,000 in 1995 to more than 200,000, and black-necked cranes from 1,000 to 3,000 in 1995 to 7,000. Numbers of such rare and endangered species as wild yaks and Tibetan wild donkeys are also steadily growing.

Ecological development in forestry and grassland is making remarkable progress. According to the eighth national survey of forest resources conducted in 2014, the Region's forest coverage rate was as high as 11.98 percent, covering a total area of 14.7156 million ha. Wood stock accounted for 2.262 billion cubic meters of forest, 2.261 billion cubic meters of virgin forest, and 267 cubic meters per ha. of high forest. The key non-commercial forest totals 10.1127 million ha. Tibet leads the country in terms of per capita forest coverage, stock of forest, virgin forest and high forest, and area of key non-commercial forest. Compared with the third national survey of desertification and sandification, the fourth survey shows a 78,900 ha. decline in desertification and 65,700 ha. decline in sandification in Tibet. This signifies that the situation has been checked and is now taking a turn for the better. By the end of 2014, there was 84.33 million ha. of natural grassland in Tibet, 70.67 million of which is usable.

Eco-compensation pilot work is progressing. The central government applies eco-compensation policies to forest and grassland etc., in Tibet, having allocated more than four billion yuan each year to the Region. The state has also formulated the Measures for Management of Eco-Compensation Funds for Forest in Tibet Autonomous Region. From 2010, the central budget began granting annual 772 million yuan of eco-compensation to the Region's non-commercial forest. Based on the pilot work to award grassland ecological protection to five counties from 2009 to 2010, in 2011 a policy to subsidize grassland ecological protection was fully implemented in 74 counties across the Region. It entailed spending 2.00981 billion yuan of subsidies and awards each year on protecting the grassland environment and increasing the income of farmers and herdsmen. The state has implemented the transfer payment policy in key ecological reserves, covering 18 counties of Tibet and spending 1.083 billion yuan in 2014. These measures help to protect key non-commercial forest, prime grassland and key ecological areas.

Tibet takes the lead in building ecological culture. In 2014, the National Development and Reform Commission and five other departments jointly issued the Notice on Building Ecological Culture Demonstration Areas (The First Group), listing Shannan and Nyingchi prefectures as the first group, which will take the lead in conducting independent environmental monitoring and enforcing environmental laws, improving the pollution discharge permit system and enterprise pollutant cap control system, and establishing a lifelong accountability system for environmental damage to explore effective models for building ecological culture in impoverished border areas mostly inhabited by ethnic minorities with rich ecological resources and value.

As the surveys and evaluations of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and relevant departments show, Tibet Plateau boasts a stable and balanced ecological system with a stable eco-quality. Encompassing all terrestrial ecosystems, the Tibetan ecosystems remain important gene pools of China and the entire globe's biological species, and a key area for biodiversity conservation. Its water, air, noise, soil, radiation, and ecological and environmental quality all remain in good condition, and its rivers, lakes, forests, grasslands, wetlands, glaciers, snow mountains, and wildlife are all under effective protection, most in the Region maintaining their original natural state.

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