A coconut carving master displays his skills at a news conference for Hainan province in Beijing on Monday. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/China Daily]

China’s southernmost province will continue focusing on ecological development as it establishes a national ecological civilization demonstration zone and builds up a world-class pilot free trade zone, a top official from the province said on Monday.

Liu Cigui, Party secretary of Hainan province, said the province will continue carrying out the most stringent environmental regulations to protect its natural resources, such as tropical forests that cover one-seventh of the island. The province also plans to soon set up a national rainforest park.

“It’s important to integrate the crackdown on illegal construction on the island and speed up efforts to improve the natural environment of coastlines,” Liu said at a news conference held by the State Council Information Office in Beijing.

The only tropical island province in China, Hainan has 1,944 kilometers of coastline, 68 natural bays and more than 600 islands. In the capital Haikou, a wetland area of 29,093 hectares is home to 514 wetland animal species and 439 plant species.

The province also boasts rare rainforest resources, ecosystems and biodiversity. It has more than 4,000 vascular plants, more than 2,500 kinds of medicinal plants and over 20 species of rare plants protected at the national level.

Since May 2018, the province has taken the lead in implementing the use of new-energy vehicles, planning to replace gasoline-powered cars by 2020 and provide a green lifestyle for the public, said Shen Xiaoming, governor of Hainan.

“It also plays an important role in preserving the nation’s largest tropical rainforest area of 4,400 square kilometers,” he said, adding that the province will phase out single-use plastic bags by the end of 2020 to ease pollution and protect the environment.

Government figures show that the province’s annual concentration of PM 2.5-hazardous fine particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns-was below 17 micrograms per cubic meter last year, and forest coverage has stabilized at more than 62.1 percent.

Established in 1988, Hainan was built up as the country’s largest special economic zone, and the central government declared the island a pilot free trade zone in April last year.

With the historical change of the island from an isolated land to a tourist paradise, the development of Hainan province has long been at the forefront of China’s reform and opening-up, according to Shen.

“The future development of the island can’t ignore the preservation of the ecological environment as it plans to establish a year-round garden to attract visitors from home and abroad,” he said.