Since the launch of reform and opening-up 40 years ago, the management of natural resources and ecological environment has overlapped among various departments, leading to conflicts of interests and dysfunction. For instance, a piece of land could be regarded as farmland by the land department, while the department of forest, water or transport could see it as forest land, water conservation area or land for developing transportation.
To give another example, a mountain could be divided into two parts: the one described as scenic spot run by the housing and construction department while the other described as forest park or natural reserve zone managed by the forest department. Such overlapping of duties creates obstacles to building an ecological civilization.
But now these problems can be solved, as the plan to deepen the institutional reform of the Party and country approved by Third Plenary Session of the 19th Communist Party of China Central Committee on Feb 28 also includes the reform of the natural resource and ecological environment management system.
The reform is important, primarily because it is conducive to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese characteristics for a New Era. President Xi stressed that it is necessary to let one department perform the duty of managing all the land space to uniformly protect and restore mountains, water bodies, forests, lakes and land.
Second, it fulfills the requirements of the Constitution. Article 9 of the Constitution says all mineral resources, water, forests, mountains, grasslands, uncultivated land, beaches and other natural resources are owned by the State, that is by the whole people, except those forests, mountains, grasslands, uncultivated land and beaches that are owned by collectives in accordance with the law. But it can be hard to identify who has the right to use public-owned natural resources. The amendment to the Constitution lists the construction of an ecological civilization as an important duty of the State Council, China's Cabinet, and the ecological environment management reform will enable the State Council to better perform its duty in this regard.
Third, the reform will help improve the nationwide natural resource asset management system by, for instance, separating the owner from the regulator and clearly defining the functions of different departments.
Fourth, the reform is conducive to the spirit of the 19th National Congress of the CPC, as it aims to enhance the overall planning, organization and leadership for building an ecological civilization; establish a State-owned natural resource asset management system and improve the ecological environment management mechanism.
Also, to strengthen the natural resource and ecological environment management, the authorities need to improve a comprehensive natural resource asset ownership system, which is exactly what the reform intends to do. And apart from further clarifying the regulatory powers of the management agencies and ownership of natural resources, the coordination among the departments should also be enhanced.
The author is a researcher at Party School of the Central Committee of CPC.
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