Water, woodland to dominate Xiongan New Area - China's new special economic zone

The Xiongan New Area, a new special economic zone in the heavily polluted province of Hebei, aims to promote integration with the neighbouring cities of Beijing and Tianjin.
The Xiongan New Area, a new special economic zone in the heavily polluted province of Hebei, aims to promote integration with the neighbouring cities of Beijing and Tianjin.PHOTO: ST FILE

BEIJING - More than 70 per cent of Xiongan New Area in North China's Hebei province will be covered by water and trees, according to a leading official.

"We will not construct high-rise buildings, concrete jungles or glass walls in the new area," said Mr Chen Gang, director of the Xiongan New Area administrative committee.

He added that protection of the local ecological environment will be regarded as a top priority during the construction process, which will follow a green development path, China Daily reported.

The Xiongan New Area, a new special economic zone in the heavily polluted province of Hebei, aims to promote integration with the neighbouring cities of Beijing and Tianjin.

The new area covers the three counties of Xiongxian, Anxin and Rongcheng.

One of Xiongan New Area's priorities is ecological protection, President Xi Jinping had said earlier.

According to the development plan, announced in April, the Xiongan New Area will cover about 100 sq km initially, but will be expanded to 200 sq km in the middle term, and rise to about 2,000 sq km in the long term.

Infrastructure, businesses and residential buildings will cover less than 30 per cent of the total area, while the remainder will be home to forests and bodies of water, according to a statement published on the area's official WeChat account last Thursday (Sept 28).

The aim is to build a liveable new area, with plants, forests and water being the main elements, said executive deputy director Liu Baoling of the administrative committee, as quoted in China Daily.

He added that trees are already being planted across a 120,000 sq m pilot region to provide experience with the cultivation of seedlings, planting technologies and management.

Based on that work, a manual about the area's overall afforestation will be produced to guide further planting work.

Another forestry project, covering 7 sq km, will start by the end of the year.

By 2030, the area's woodland coverage rate will surpass 40 per cent, more than double the national average, according to Mr Liu.

At present, the coverage rate in the three counties spanning the new area are 19.72 per cent in Xiongxian, 9.3 per cent in Rongcheng and 7.29 per cent in Anxin.

In addition to woodland, Xiongan is home to Baiyangdian, one of the largest freshwater wetlands in China.

Know as the "Pearl of North China", Baiyangdian, which covers 366 sq km, contains 143 small lakes and is essential to the conservation of water on the North China Plain.

The ecological restoration of the wetland has been one of the key tasks for the area. A range of measures have been undertaken, such as controlling the discharge of wastewater into the lakes and the removal of fish-raising nets in the water, China Daily reported.

The overall planning for Xiongan is already underway, and will include a specific plan for the protection of Baiyangdian's environment. According to the administrative committee, preparations are also being made to start a number of major projects in the fields of transportation, ecological restoration and cultural protection in line with the area's mode of development.