Xie Zhenhua : Co-Winner 2003
Xie Zhenhua, the initiator and leader of China’s environmental protection programme, has successfully worked to improve China’s environment for more than two decades. His leadership has also helped to change the attitude of China’s people—a quarter of the world’s population—towards the environment.
Xie initiated China’s largest ever river basin water pollution treatment campaign, improving access to safe drinking water for over 200 million people. He successfully phased out inefficient production processes in more than 100,000 wasteful and polluting enterprises. Many low-pollution or no-pollution industries have been developed and the discharge of pollutants is decreasing each year.
Xie has also overseen the creation of 1,757 nature reserves—13.2 per cent of the country’s area—to conserve biodiversity. To protect a wild camel reserve in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Xie was able to change the route of the West-East natural gas transmission project—a symbolic project for the development of the western region—despite an additional cost of US$25 million. To avoid damage to a cultural heritage site, Xie persuaded the Beijing Municipal Government to change the route of a proposed subway, at an extra cost of US$120 million.
Over the past decade Xie has promoted numerous forums for prominent international experts. Most of their 500 or so concrete suggestions, channelled through the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, have been adopted by the Government of China. Xie has also worked to promote public participation. With his support China now has more than 2,000 environmental non-governmental organizations with nearly one million members. He has also put in place measures that encourage the media to publicize environmental quality. Today more than 100 million urban residents can obtain daily information about their city’s air quality.
Xie pushed forward China’s implementation of the Montreal Protocol by introducing creative approaches to China’s phase-out of ozone depleting substances (ODS). According to the World Bank, the total amount of ODS phased out in China accounts for about 50 per cent of all ODS phase-out in the developing world.
Xie has also significantly contributed to the resolution of trans-boundary environmental problems of deep concern to the Asian region, such as sandstorms, acid rain and regional marine pollution. He promoted the first Asia-Europe Environment Ministers’ Meeting in Beijing, which created a unique model for environmental cooperation between Asia and Europe.
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