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HAINAN, December 29, China Daily -- Most government officials in Hainan province will no longer be evaluated on GDP growth, as authorities move toward a greener approach that rewards efforts to protect the tropical island's unique ecology.

A revised assessment system will be introduced next month in 12 of its 19 cities and counties, Liu Cigui, the province's Party chief, said at an economic work conference in Haikou on Monday.

The decision on whether an official should be promoted will now be based on their achievements in environmental protection and building the local ecological civilization, rather than traditional key factors such as GDP growth, industrial production and fixed-asset investment, he said.

Liu said the shift in focus sends a strong message to local leaders that they must change their mentality to cultivate a green model that protects the island's ecological advantages, promotes quality development and builds a beautiful Hainan.

Requirements and standards will differ in the 19 cities and counties based on their location, natural resources, functions and development characteristics.

For example, an innovative development index has been designed to appraise officials in major cities and areas, such as Haikou, Sanya, the Yangpu Economic Development Zone, Danzhou and Chengmai, while environmental protection has been set as the most important task in the central parts of the province.

Detailed requirements will also assess officials on their efficient use of resources, farmland protection, poverty reduction, advances in pillar industries and public services, and providing guidance to lower-level officials on development quality, mode and capacity.

"To give it a vivid explanation, we will let 'basketball players' and 'soccer players' compete on different playing fields," Liu said. "Hainan will further improve its new evaluation system and set up a green GDP index to evaluate economic growth."

The new appraisal system will gradually be rolled out across the island, he added.

A report released this week by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the State Oceanic Administration after a monthlong inspection in Hainan said that several construction projects had violated the law and left "scars" on the environment that would be hard to heal.

Sea Flower Island, for example, a land reclamation project in Danzhou, had damaged large areas of coral reef, the report said. The project managers have been ordered to complete rectification and improvement plans within a month.

To prevent such problems, Shen Xiaoming, the governor of Hainan, said the provincial government will extend by three years an ongoing campaign to improve the air, water and soil quality, preserve the mountains and forests, beautify urban and rural areas, and clamp down on illegal construction projects.

More than 3,590 cases of environmental destruction reported by local residents have been dealt with, according to data presented at the economic work conference.

"The system of appointing officials as 'chiefs' to protect rivers, lakes, bays and mountains will be strictly implemented to curb pollution and safeguard the island's unique resources," Shen said.

Mao Dongli, deputy director of the Hainan Ecological and Environmental Protection Department, said an enforcement system for environmental monitoring and supervision will cover the entire province by the end of next year.

Hainan - a popular tourist resort known for its scenery, warm climate and fresh air-gets millions of visitors from home and abroad every year.

"The island's ecological resources are its 'best capital' and biggest advantage to help realize its blueprint to build an international tourism destination and attain sustainable development," Liu added.

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