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Chinese cities get awards for environment

DAWN (Pakistan), 6 June 2002

BEIJING, June 5: The Chinese industrial boomtown of Shenzhen and a desert-prone county in north China have been given UN awards for their efforts in defending the environment, state media said Wednesday. But the UN environment awards - only the second time they have gone to Chinese cities since the scheme was launched in 1987 - came only days after Beijing admitted that water and air pollution in some places was reaching hazardous levels.

Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province, and Aohanqi, in China's Inner Mongolia region, were officially added to the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP's) Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement Tuesday, the China Daily said.

The awards, considered one of the most prestigious international environmental honours, were part of the 30th international World Environment Day, which is being celebrated by UNEP in Shenzhen.

Other recipients of the 2002 award include a Jordanian princess, and five environmental groups from Angola, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, the Philippines and the United States, a UNEP statement said. UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said Shenzhen was chosen because of its efforts to harmonize economic development and environmental protection, state media said.

The city sprang up from farmland to become a manufacturing base after China designated it as a special economic zone two decades ago. Forty-five percent of its urban districts are covered with greenery.

Shenzhen officials plan to further improve the city by spending 60 million yuan (7.2 million dollars) to plant trees and other greenery on barren land in the city over the next three years, a report on sina.com website said Wednesday.

Aohanqi county, which is on the edge of a vast desert, was recognized for its achievements in the past 30 years to fight desertification.

Large-scale environmental projects have been undertaken since the early 1970s and at present forest coverage in the county has reached 43.5 percent, and shifting sand dunes have been reduced to 6,000 hectares from 38,000 hectares 30 years ago.

The achievements of these two places epitomize China's intensive efforts to improve the environment over recent decades, Xinhua quoted Xie Zhenhua, director of China's State Environmental Protection Administration, saying. However, an annual government report released last week indicated China is battling severe environmental problems.-AFP