BEIJING, March 30 (Xinhua) -- A meeting of the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a plan on Wednesday for preserving and protecting west China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau over the next two decades.
The meeting, presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, concluded that the regions covered by the plateau are "key to the country's ecological safety". These regions include the Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, as well as the provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu.
Strengthening environmental protection in these regions is important for "maintaining border stability, ethnic unity and the building of a well-off society," according to a statement from the meeting.
Since 2001, about 160,000 square km of grazing land have been reverted to grasslands and about 4,200 square km of farmland have been reverted to forests in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau region, the statement said.
The statement also said about 9,000 square km of drought- and erosion-afflicted lands have received treatments to reverse these conditions. Forest coverage in the region has increased by 0.8 percent, according to the statement.
However, the statement noted that "due to a vulnerable environment and unscientific economic structure, the ecological security of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau faces severe challenges."
Therefore, efforts should be made to restructure local industry, manage pollution levels and resolve ecological problems closely related to public health, the statement said.
"By 2030, the plateau's ecological system should become balanced," the statement said.
The region should be divided according to different functions, such as animal husbandry and ecological preservation, the statement said.
Efforts should also be made to enhance biodiversity in the region, as well as preserve grasslands, wetlands and forests, especially near the origin site of China's three major rivers - the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Lantsang River, the statement said.
Reversing desertification, water loss and soil erosion in the region should help enhance the quality of the land and prevent geological disasters, according to the statement.
The statement also called for improving drinking water quality in both rural and urban areas, enhancing treatment of the region's water and air pollution, properly handling solid waste and strictly controlling soil management.
The statement said that an early warning mechanism for climate change and environmental monitoring should be created and enforcement of relevant laws should be strengthened.