BEIJING — China’s central government on Wednesday discussed policies to boost overall development of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, pledging especially to lift the living standards of local residents, improve ecology, and maintain social stability.
An executive meeting of the State Council, or cabinet, said that development in Inner Mongolia should be boosted by adjusting its economic growth mode, improving its standard of living, conserving resources, protecting the environment and promoting national unity and social stability.
“Inner Mongolia is of strategic importance for the country’s economic and social development, as well as its prosperity and stability in bordering areas,” said a statement issued after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting presided by Premier Wen Jiabao.
By 2015, the region’s forest coverage should increase to 21.5 percent, and its grassland vegetation coverage should hit 43 percent, the statement said.
The government will strive to curb a trend of deterioration in the region’s ecological environment by 2015, it added.
Government statistics show that desertification had affected nearly 52.2 percent of the land in Inner Mongolia by the end of 2009. Over the past decade, about 12 million mu (804,000 hectares) of grassland in the region was lost annually.
Mine exploitation, especially the use of heavy machinery, seriously damages grasslands, said Altanhobotxar, a professor with the University of Inner Mongolia.
Inner Mongolia, bordering on Mongolia to the north and covering one tenth of China, holds the country’s largest coal reserves, or 741.4 billion tonnes. The region’s coal output reached 787 million tonnes last year, replacing Shanxi Province as the country’s top coal producer.
The regional coal mining authorities last week ordered a month-long overhaul of the area’s coal mines to curb environmental damage, harassment of local residents, and violations of safety rules from unmonitored mining practices.
Bagatur, chairman of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region government,acknowledged in an article published in the latest issue of the Communist Party’s Seeking-Truth magazine that the ecology of about 36.7 percent of the land space in Inner Mongolia has become fragile.
“There is an urgent need to protect the environment from further deteriorating,” Bagatur said.
During Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, the central government pledged to raise the income of urban and rural residents in Inner Mongolia to the national average by 2020.
The region’s comprehensive economic power should be enhanced and living conditions for farmers and herders should be markedly improved, the cabinet statement said.
There are 1.5 million people living under the poverty line in Inner Mongolia, government statistics show.
The regional government previously vowed to double the income of rural herders in five years from the current 5,530 yuan ($851) a year on average.
The cabinet meeting said by 2013, the government will ensure that farmers, herders and forestry center staffers in the region will have potable water to drink, as well as improved access to electricity.
The State Council ordered relevant agencies and authorities to work out stronger supporting polices to back Inner Mongolia in terms of industrial development, taxation, financing and investment.
The region should set up a diversified modern industrial system by turning itself into a national energy base and upgrading its existing traditional industries, it said.