China has experienced "sweeping, historic and transformative changes" in its environment in the past decade, thanks to the unprecedented efforts to promote ecological civilization from the Communist Party of China Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, said Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu.
"The country has made remarkable miracles in ecological improvement and green development," he said in a news conference organized by the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee on Thursday.
Ecological civilization is a concept promoted by Xi for balanced and sustainable development that features harmonious coexistence between mankind and nature.
"The nation has been on a track of development that ensures increased production, higher living standards and healthy ecosystems. It has made significant steps forward in building a 'Beautiful China'."
China has been the country with the fastest progress in improving air quality, Huang noted.
The 74 key major cities where the monitoring of PM2.5－particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less－was started in 2013, for example, have so far seen their annual average density of the pollutant with health hazards decrease by 56 percent, he said.
The country extended PM2.5 monitoring to all the 338 cities above prefecture level across the country in 2015.
Last year, the average PM2.5 concentration across the country stood at 30 micrograms per cubic meter, compared with 46 mcg per cubic m in 2015, the minister continued.
The minister especially highlighted the significant air quality improvement in the capital.
Holding a photo of star trails taken with a building in the Forbidden City in the foreground, he said, "To succeed in taking such a photo, there must be extremely high air quality and transparency. Thus, this photo is a real reflection of the air quality improvement in Beijing in recent years.
"Now blue sky dotted with white clouds has become something very normal. It's no longer a luxury," he said.
Huang said the achievement happened following consistent efforts to transform the structure of energy consumption, industry and transportation.
In the past decade, he said, about two-thirds of the growth in energy consumption in the country has been met by clean energy.
He also noted marked progress in controlling coal consumption during the time, saying the number of coal-fired boilers and furnaces has declined from 500,000 to 100,000 and over 27 million rural households in northern China have said farewell to coal as a source for heating in winter.
The minister mentioned water pollution control as one of the other major areas where marked achievement has occurred.
The country has essentially eradicated the black and odorous water bodies that existed in 295 major cities, he said. Previously pointed out as prominent environmental problems by residents, many of the water bodies have been transformed into beautiful scenery.
"During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period, China built 99,000 kilometers of new sewage pipe network, more than twice the length of the equator," he said.
Huang vowed unremitting efforts to further improve the country's environmental quality.
Despite huge improvement, environmental and ecological quality in the country remain at a medium and low level, he said. There are still gaps between the current quality and people's ever-growing needs for a better living environment.