Island province gears up efforts to build a beautiful environment with advanced ecological civilization
Ecological preservation has been pushed to the forefront of China's development, as the country transitions to an ever-greener development model.
Hainan, the country's only tropical province - well-known for its seascapes, ecosystems and holiday resorts - is among the pacesetters of these efforts.
The second plenary session of the seventh CPC Hainan Provincial Committee in Haikou, the provincial capital, recently made a key decision.
It put forward a series of comprehensive rules and regulations to mobilize people from all walks of life in order to improve ecological protection awareness and build Hainan into a national demonstration area for ecological civilization construction.
Hainan establishes a greener model
The decision said Hainan will reduce and gradually cancel its traditional appraisals of GDP, industrial production values and investment in fixed assets.
Instead, it will adopt a "Green GDP Index" to evaluate local officials' performances and economic growth. The traditional method of GDP calculation in two-thirds of the island's regions will be replaced in the near future, and then finally across the whole province. By 2020, all the major ecological problems will be properly settled, with the quality of the province's ecological environment ranking among the top in the country, and a green model for local development and people's daily lives established, according to the decision.
Rich natural resources
Located at roughly the same latitude as Hawaii and encircled by charming coastlines, Hainan is home to rich and precious ecological resources: tropical forests, wetlands and geothermal resources and marine resources.
Liu Cigui, Party chief of Hainan, said the province will uphold the strategy of building a sound environment to carry through President Xi's important instructions.
"The environmental quality must only improve, instead of worsening. Any projects that will pollute or cause harm to the local ecosystems will not be tolerated," Liu said.
Liu added Hainan will carefully protect its ecological resources, which he called the province's "best capital" for green and prosperous economic and social development, to better realize its blueprint for becoming a pleasant home for its residents, a four-season garden and a holiday paradise for Chinese and overseas tourists.
The central part of the island, including the counties of Qiongzhong, Baisha, Wuzhishan and Baoting - considered the ecological core areas of Hainan - abolished the traditional GDP assessment system in 2014. Instead, they made ecological protection their priority in local social and economic development.
Shen Xiaoming, governor of Hainan, praised the Baisha Li autonomous county for its ecological improvement during a recent research investigation. Baisha has suspended commercial real estate projects and saw its GDP decline as a result.
"Baisha has a special place in Hainan's ecological civilization construction. Its biggest advantage is its ecological resources and its greatest task is to protect them well. We would rather develop a little slowly and yet take good care of the beautiful ecological resources.
"The ecological environment is Hainan's livelihood and lifeline. Any development should take good care of the environment as a precondition and an ecological bottom line", said Shen.
The provincial government has established a mechanism for ecological protection compensation. To date, a subsidy of 500 million yuan ($75.9 million) has been allocated across the province's counties, and the amount will be increased every year, according to local officials.
Deng Xiaogang, director of Hainan's department of ecology and environmental protection, said the recent decision was a milestone because, for the first time, the provincial government said officials will be held liable for damage to the environment throughout their lives.
"Local government officials play an essential role in ecology and environmental protection while making policies to promote economic growth," Deng said.
Hainan has 62 percent forest coverage and is often crowned with such titles as a "natural oxygen bar", "ecological garden" and "longevity island". It has adopted a veto power over major projects that would harm the environment. More than 500 projects have been rejected in the past three years.
"We want to attract the best investments with our best resources," said Liu, the Party chief.