BEIJING, March 12 -- Legislators from southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region on Wednesday vowed to protect the local environment, warning that ecological degradation may harm tourism.
"Tibet is protecting its environment with a no-nonsense manner," said Hong Wei, vice head of the regional tourism bureau, at the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
"We will never develop our economy at the cost of the environment," said the deputy.
Tibet is one of the cleanest areas in the world in terms of its environment, according to a white paper issued by the Chinese government last year. Nature reserves account for over one third of the region's area. With over 6 million hectares, Tibet has more wetlands than anywhere else in the country.
Thanks to its improved transportation, nationwide promotion and the ecological protection, Tibet received a record of 12.91 million tourists from home and abroad last year, but swarming tourists and the associated enterprises have prompted ecological concern.
"There are challenges to our environment," said NPC deputy Losang Tenpa.
"The environment is the 'golden bowl' for Tibetans," he said. "We should protect it the way we protect our own eyes."
Currently, all important construction projects in Tibet must undergo environmental impact assessments.
"Tibet's goal is to be a world class tourist destination," said Gesang Zhoigar, an NPC deputy. "We are still far from that."
"If the environment in Tibet is damaged, its attraction will be greatly harmed," the deputy said.