5. Ecological conservation has been progressing rapidly, and environmental protection is being strengthened in an all-round way.
Tibet serves as an important ecology safety barrier in China. In old Tibet macro-ecological conservation or comprehensive environmental protection was out of the question. But since the peaceful liberation, and especially since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies, the central and regional governments have attached great importance to ecological conservation and environmental protection, and plowed in large amounts of funds, manpower and materials in these endeavors. In 2002 the central government decided to launch 160 key projects in this regard. During the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-2005), the state granted 3.243 billion yuan for ecological and environmental protection in Tibet, and during the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) the figure tripled to 10.162 billion yuan. The people's congress and people's government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have published more than 30 local regulations, regulatory documents and administrative rules covering ecological conservation and environmental protection. A relatively comprehensive system of environmental protection has taken shape. Meanwhile, Tibet actively carries out projects to protect its natural forests, and convert farmland into forest and pastures into grassland. It also makes efforts to control desertification and soil erosion, manage small watersheds and prevent geological disasters. Tibet led the whole country to initiate the ecological compensation mechanism for the protection of grassland. It has launched a project to replace firewood with clean energy, and 150,000 households have begun to use methane gas. Tibet is home to 21 ecological function conservation areas, seven national forest parks, three geological parks, one state-class scenic area and 47 nature reserves at various levels, accounting for 34.5 percent of the total land area of the region, topping any other part in China. The forest coverage rate has risen from less than 1 percent before the peaceful liberation to 11.91 percent at present, and more than six million hectares of wetland have been protected. According to the latest report on the state of the environment of China, generally speaking, there is no pollution of the atmosphere or water in Tibet. The region has basically maintained its original natural state, being one of the areas with the best environmental quality in the world. Tibet has embarked on a path of sustainable development, with economic growth and ecological protection advancing side by side. On March 2, 2009 the central government approved the Plan for Ecology Safety Barrier Protection and Construction in Tibet (2008-2030), with the projected investment amounting to 15.5 billion yuan.