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Sensitive areas may be no-growth zones Population study calls for end to urbanisation in environmentally important regions

January 11, 2008

Stephen Chen

5 January 2008
South China Morning Post

Urbanisation will be halted in Tibet , Guizhou , Ningxia and Qinghai ,
where population pressures are exacting a toll on the environment,
according to mainland media.

It would also be stopped in nature reserves and areas that are the
origins of major rivers and sources of sandstorms, the 21st Century
Business Herald reported yesterday.

The article revealed details of a supposedly classified government study
that also calls for immigration restrictions. It said the central
government had approved the scheme, proposed by the National Population
and Family Planning Commission, and a timetable would be drawn up for
its implementation next year.

The arid regions of northwestern China, mountainous areas of
southeastern Tibet, the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, and the Loess Plateau
area will become buffer zones, temporarily taking in migrants from the
restricted areas, the report said. The Xingjiang Uygur Autonomous Region
, Shaanxi province , and major cities in central China will maintain
their existing, stable pace of population growth.

The study said the government ought to anticipate and encourage massive
migration to coastal cities, agricultural centres and industrial zones,
where more than half of the mainland's population will be concentrated
by 2030.

The favourable areas to live, accounting for about 10 per cent of
China's land mass, would hold more than 30 per cent of the population.
Fertile agricultural plains in northeastern, central and southern China,
and flourishing urban clusters centred on mega-cities such as Shenyang ,
Beijing, Zhengzhou , Wuhan , Changsha , Qingdao , Nanning , Chengdu ,
Chongqing , Shanghai and Guangzhou would start preparing for an enormous
increase in residents.

The report quoted Chen Li , director of the commission's development and
planning department, as saying the population development strategy would
be "total" for eastern China, "partial" for the central regions, and
"selective" for the west. Mr Chen said China urgently needed a
scientifically designed population-density blueprint to direct future
population flows.

The commission estimates that the mainland's population will reach 1.5
billion within three decades, accompanied by rapid urbanisation.

If current trends persist, more than 70 per cent of mainlanders will be
city dwellers by 2034, which means at least 300 million farmers will
need to find places to live and work in urban areas.

"That would be a challenge to any government on Earth," said Wei
Jinsheng, an urbanisation analyst at the China Population and
Development Research Centre. "The biggest challenge of the plan is not
deciding where to control, but how."

An official at the commission's research department declined to reveal
more details of the study yesterday, saying it was highly confidential
and that the department was not ready to release the report to the public.
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