Source: Xinhua | 2012-10-24 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
Illustration by Zhou Tao
Photo by Zhou Tao
THE open-cut mining area of the Daye Iron Mine in central China's Huangshi city - Asia's biggest opencast mine - looks like a gaping mouth of Earth.
Dating back 1,780 years ago, the mine became a key resource supplier for China's industrialization, creating economic benefits as well as environmental ills.
It was commonly said that the sky, in Tieshan District and beyond, remained gray, partly due to the Daye Iron Mine.
Resource-rich Huangshi recorded rapid economic growth in the second half of last century, thanks to heavy investment in resource industries, including iron and steel.
But the shortage of exploitable resources and tainted agriculture and environmental pollution, which became increasingly severe in 1990s, cast a shadow over the city's future. Decades of rapid economic development have turned Huangshi into a resource-exhausted city.
The Daye Iron Mine's open-cut area was turned into the country's first national ore park six years ago and has become a popular scenic spot with sculptures made from waste equipment. Huangshi's experience with the Daye Iron Mine symbolizes China's struggle in establishing a balance between the economy and the environment.
The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has been clear about the significance of promoting a "conservation culture."
"(China will) promote a conservation culture by basically forming an energy- and resource-efficient and environment-friendly structure of industries, pattern of growth and mode of consumption," Hu Jintao, China's president and general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said at the start of the 17th CPC National Congress held in October 2007.
Officially writing "conservation culture" into the report of its national congress, a five-yearly political tone-setting event, the CPC is likely to reiterate this topic as a major task in its upcoming 18th National Congress scheduled for next month, according to observers.
In a July 23 speech given to provincial-level officials, Hu termed promoting a conservation culture as a strategic mission that will involve fundamental changes in the mode of production and the way of life. He vowed to put the concept into all aspects and sections of China's economic, political, and social development.
Yan Shuhan, a theoretical studies professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, said it is noteworthy that in Hu's July speech, conservation culture was underlined as part of China's general plan for socialist construction.
Since the inception of the reform and opening-up drive over three decades ago, China has witnessed rapid economic growth, becoming the world's second largest economy in 2010.
But China's growth is over-dependent on resource consumption, marked by resource use inefficiencies and environmental ills. This creates worries about China's ability to sustain its development.
China tops the world in the amount of resources it consumes. Coal accounts for 70 percent of the gross energy output and consumption in China, according to statistics. In north China's Shanxi Province, a major coal production base, the extraction of coal has already led to the damage of more than 6,000 sq km of forest and the erosion of another 6,000 sq km of land.
Half of the petroleum that China consumes now is imported. China's annual petroleum consumption in 2020, according to some experts, is expected to exceed 650 million tons -beyond the limit tolerable by China's economy and environment.
The country speeded up industrialization during the past 30 years, leading to fast CO2 emissions growth. Labeled as one of the world's largest sources of emissions, China is feeling international pressure.
In 2006, China for the first time listed emissions-reduction goals in its five-year national development plan (2006-2010), demanding the aggregate energy consumption per unit GDP drop around 20 percent from that of 2005.