A regulation banning the construction of new facilities in the country’s national nature reserves will take effect on April 15. Banned projects include golf courses and power plants, according to the State Forestry Administration.
The provisional regulation was published on the administration’s website on March 8.
New projects within the country’s national nature reserves are subject to government approval under existing law. But the new regulation sets out more explicitly what cannot be built in the reserves, and imposes stricter controls on location and construction to minimize ecological risks.
According to the document, golf courses, real estate developments and clubs are banned, as are photovoltaic, thermal and wind power installations.
Commercial mining projects, as well as geological exploration facilities for mineral resources that are not in short supply, are not allowed. Facilities that could lead to pollution or damage to natural landscapes and resources are banned as well.
The new regulation also raises the bar for those seeking approval to build facilities in the reserves, with the forestry administration requiring applicants to submit documents proving that their projects must cut across or occupy the reserve, along with several alternative plans for comparison and an evaluation of the possible ecological risks.
Xu Jiliang, a professor at Beijing Forestry University, said the new rules supplement existing laws and regulations and have great ecological significance.
“Research has shown that large numbers of projects have been approved in nature reserves as a result of a lack of standards and detailed rules, raising ecological risks,” he said.
But the rules exempt amenities needed for people who live in the reserves. Those projects are subject only to local authorities’ direction and oversight.
Xu said the exemption is crucial for the more than 10 million people living within nature reserves.
“The exception is in line with poverty relief policies and makes room for the inhabitants of reserves to improve their lives,” he said.
The rules also urge nature reserve managers to strengthen supervision over construction and to monitor ecological risks. Problems should be reported to the forestry administration as soon as possible, it says.
According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, 5.9 million square meters of illegal buildings were demolished in national nature reserves over the past year, with more than 1,100 officials held accountable.