Province turns green into gold

By MA ZHENHUAN and QIN JIRONG| CHINA DAILY| Updated : Aug 14, 2020 L M S

East China's Zhejiang province has been ramping up efforts to seek economic growth in a green way, placing greater emphasis on environmental protection and ecological development in recent years.

Over the past three years, 20 counties and districts in Zhejiang have been selected as pilot zones for "big-garden" construction and a group of projects concerning green development have seen remarkable progress.

In Quzhou, one of the program's core cities, a 215-kilometer road linking over 20 AAA scenic spots and more than 60 historical and cultural villages was completed in April.

It's an important project to support the city's tourism industry and connects the most distinctive attractions concerning Quzhou's nature and culture. And it demonstrates the city's determination to develop ecologically friendly industries.

Quzhou's mayor Tang Feifan hailed it as a "road to beauty and happiness", and said he expected it to showcase to the world the city's achievements in implementing the "Two Mountains" theory.

Quzhou has been improving facilities and creating incentives. Tourism revenue reached 59.58 billion yuan ($8.51 billion) in 2019, a 12 percent year-on-year increase.

By 2022, the government hopes to attract 90 million tourists a year and make tourism a pillar industry.

Ecology is the greatest strength of Lishui, another core "big-garden "city in Zhejiang, and green development is its biggest task, Hu Haifeng, Lishui's Party secretary and a deputy to the National People's Congress, said in May.

He says Lishui is building a "modern ecological economic system" in an all-around way and has made attempts to accelerate high-quality green development.

Zhou Haizhong, an official from the leading group for Lishui's green development, says building beautiful villages, gardens and industrial parks has been a focus of the government.

The city invested 32.26 billion yuan in the program in 2019, 22.5 percentage points higher than the scheduled investment, says Zhou.

Lishui has established 2,064 kilometers of greenways, which feature the essence of its natural landscapes and cultural heritage.

The city has also explored ways to measure the value of ecological resources, such as using GEP (gross ecosystem product), instead of GDP(gross domestic product), to gauge the value of nature's contributions to economic activity.

Besides the two core cities, Zhejiang's "big-garden" program is running throughout the whole province, and the value of water and mountains has been unlocked.

In 2019, the value added by Zhejiang's tourism exceeded 532 billion yuan, up 8 percent year-on-year.

The province plans to invest nearly 200 billion yuan in 183 major projects related to the "big-garden "program this year, according to a news briefing on April 23.

A group of island parks, mountain parks, AAAAA scenic spots, rivers and forests will be developed in 2020 to integrate ecological resources.

Xu Xing, an official with the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission, says Zhejiang will further explore its strengths to enhance the sustainable relationship between nature and wealth.