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China’s polluted Hebei sets ecological restoration goals

Updated: Oct 5,2014 3:49 PM     Xinhua

SHIJIAZHUANG — Hebei, north China’s worst-polluted province, has set a string of ecological restoration goals for rivers, lakes, mines, forests and underground water.

The province, which surrounds Beijing and Tianjin, will plant 530,000 hectares of forest by 2017 and raise forest coverage from 28 percent last year to 32 percent, according to a recently unveiled official plan.

By 2017, no rivers or tributaries should have water quality inferior to Grade V, said the document. China grades water quality according to six levels: grades I to V and “inferior to Grade V.” Water below Grade III is unsafe to drink.

Hebei will address 664 open-pit mines close to railways, highways or towns within two years. In 2014, 10 illegal mines, 46 licensed mines and 32 mining firms will be shut down. Another 251 mines that have failed to meet environmental protection requirements will halt production for restoration. By 2015, ecological restoration will be completed for 325 more mines.

In addition, similar restoration projects will be completed for 600 tailings sites, 890 mines, and 10,000 sq km of degraded land.

Some 1.26 million hectares of cropland will have access to water-saving irrigation facilities in the next four years.

Total investment in the projects will be more than 60 billion yuan (9.7 billion U.S. dollars).

Hebei is under heavy pressure to cut emissions and treat pollution. It had seven of the 10 most polluted cities in China in the first half of this year, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.