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Li pledges tough action to reduce chronic pollution

Publication Date : 06-03-2014

 

Mere weeks after declaring war on poverty, Premier Li Keqiang is waging another - on China's chronic environmental pollution.

Using strong language reflecting the government's determination, Li, speaking as he opened the National People's Congress (NPC) annual session yesterday, listed specific targets in tackling the crippling pollution that has led to smoggy skies and polluted rivers even as public anger mounts.

"Smog is affecting larger parts of China and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature's red light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development," he said, adding that "forceful measures" must be taken.

He pledged to close 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces and remove six million old, high-emission vehicles from the roads, earning him praise for being "a practical doer" from national legislators attending the NPC meetings, which will end on March 13.

Li also promised to cut energy intensity - or total energy consumption per unit of economic growth - by more than 3.9 per cent this year and to intensify the exploration and use of natural gas and shale gas.

Environmental pollution control was among the three "min sheng" or bread-and-butter tasks that Li outlined as the government's priorities in 2014.

Some areas that came under the three tasks were reducing rural-urban inequality, providing more government housing amid escalating property prices and creating enough jobs.

Li, who declared an anti-poverty war in late January, yesterday listed more steps in that direction, such as allocating more education resources to the less developed central and western regions, and reforming the medical insurance and pension systems for both urban and rural dwellers.

He aims for more than 10 million people, out of a total 99 million, to be lifted out of poverty this year, so as to break the inter-generational poverty cycle.

Employment is also a pressing issue given the record 7.3 million college students expected to graduate this year, said Li.

Top economic planner Xu Shaoshi, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, also named job creation as China's most pressing issue in 2014.

"Employment in the light of the record number of graduates is a heavy task for China, which will need to be addressed by a series of measures," he said at a press briefing.

 

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