China tightens restrictions on projects in nature reserves

11:09, May 26, 2011      

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Li Ganjie, vice minister of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, recently explained in an interview the ministry's policies for curbing the rising number of resource development, transportation and tourism projects involving nature reserves in recent years.

Improper development practices impair the functions of nature reserves

Li said several new problems facing nature reserves have arisen in China in recent years. First, due to the acceleration of industrialization and urbanization, the number of development projects involving nature reserves has been rising quickly. Many improper development practices have impaired the functions of nature reserves and reduced their value.

Second, government funding for the construction of necessary management and protection facilities is not sufficient, which has affected the management level and protection of nature reserves.

Third, stricter wildlife protection measures adopted by many nature reserves have affected local residents' lives, leading to a growing conflict between nature reserves and local residents.

Fourth, certain rare and endangered species and their habitats as well as certain ecologically important areas have not been put under the protection of nature reserves. There are not enough marine and grassland nature reserves to meet demand, and the overall structure and layout of China's nature reserves needs to be improved.

Fifth, certain local governments mistakenly believe that nature reserves will produce unfavorable effects on local economic growth, and are thus unwilling to build them.

Nature reserves restricted from changes for five years

Li said that in order to prevent certain local governments from adjusting nature reserves and damaging their functions, the central government has specifically restricted various departments and units from adjusting the nature, scope and functional zones of nature reserves as well as revoking approved nature reserves.

It also restricted the adjustment of nature reserves within five years of its establishment or approval in principle. Related departments should strictly control the reduction of the core areas and the scope of buffer zones in nature reserves during adjustments to ensure their stability.

Adjustments of local nature reserves should be reported to provincial governments for approval, and submitted to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and relevant departments for record. In other words, provincial governments must approve any adjustments to county-level, municipal and provincial nature reserves.

In addition, development and construction activities involving nature reserves will be strictly confined. Any forms of development and construction activities are prohibited in the core areas and buffer zones of nature reserves.

Environmental impact assessment documents involving development and construction projects in nature reserves should point out any possible impacts projects will have towards the functions of the nature reserves as well as protection targets.

They should propose protection, recovery and management solutions as well. The government will suspend the approval of environmental impact assessment documents for new projects by local governments and construction units who failed to complete the ecological restoration in accordance with related provisions, and relevant responsible persons will be punished according to law.

Scenic spots should not overlap with nature reserves

Li said that in addition to nature reserves, China has also established many scenic spots, forests as well as geological and wetland parks. Many parks overlap with nature reserves, causing chaos in the management of parks and nature reserves within the same area.

According to the "Circular on Improving Nature Reserve Management Work" released by the General Office of the State Council, the scope of other types of protection areas to be established should in principle not overlap with that of nature reserves.

If so, the overlapping areas should be under strict management. Strict management means that the overlapping areas should be under the same kind of management as nature reserves because the rules and regulations related to nature reserves are the strictest.

As establishing nature reserves will pose a negative impact on the production and lives of local residents, what measures should the government take? Li said that it is first necessary to accelerate the pace of establishing the ecological compensation mechanism for nature reserves.

The government should take into comprehensive account the functions, orientation and use rights ownership of nature reserves, increase the amount of financial transfer payments and gradually raise the level of the equalization of basic public services for local residents. If wild animals within nature reserves cause damage to local residents, the residents can claim compensation.

Second, it is necessary to establish a joint management mechanism with the participation of local residents. Attracting local residents to participate in the protection of nature reserves will not only strengthen the protection but also increase the income of local residents.

By People's Daily Online

 
 
     
 
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(Editor:王寒露)

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