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Xianju sets an example for clean growth

By Erik Nilsson (China Daily) Updated : 2017-11-17


A farmer harvests pitaya fruit in the Xianju Agriculture Experiment Park for Taiwan Farmers. WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY

The government of Xianju, Zhejiang province, recognizes environmental protection requires more than pure policy-it's also a battle for hearts and minds.

That said, none of these are mutually exclusive. Rather, the county has demonstrated they are symbiotic.

Upon realizing the underdeveloped county's progress depends on ecotourism and organic farming, authorities set out to build consensus that green is the way to go.

"There were debates about why we should seek green development-and how," says Xianju's policy research department director Zhu Huwei.

"Now, people from the bottom to the top agree on this path. Our goals, strategies and practices are all based on this concept. People have already started to see the financial benefits.

"People used to believe economic development and ecological protection were inherently at odds. But they don't need to be."

The county's GDP has grown rapidly over the past years, during which time tourism has doubled.

"Many other places developed fast but had to turn around later to deal with pollution," Zhu says.

"We've been figuring out how to use our ecological advantages to develop rapidly over the past decade."

This has led to the rise of a grassroots "ecological culture", he says. Volunteer groups clear trash in rivers, valleys and mountains.

Zhejiang province recently designated the county as a pilot zone for the standardization of green practices because of its track record.

"We're setting standards-what's a green school, what's a green hospital, what's a green office," Xianju's Party chief Lin Hong explains.

"Sustainable development goes beyond government and business operations to include residents' daily lives. For instance, do people shop with plastic or cloth bags?"

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