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Sunday, August 20, 2000, updated at 17:17(GMT+8)

China Sets Up Largest, Highest Nature Reserve

China sets up largest, highest nature reserve
A nature reserve covering the headwaters of China's three major rivers was set up Saturday in Qinghai Province, northwest China.

The reserve, the largest in the country, covers 318,000 square kilometers and is located more than 4,000 kilometers above sea level. As the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers, it is a reserve with most concentrated biodiversity in the world's highest altitude.

According to scientists, one fourth of the water in the Yangtze River, China's longest, half of that in the Yellow River, the second longest, and 15 percent of that in the Lancang River, comes from the area -- Sanjiangyuan (the source of the three rivers). The region is also known as China's Water Tower.

The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers go eastward into the sea before flowing through most parts of China, where Chinese civilization began to grow thousands of years ago. The Lancang River goes down to Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in the south and further to some southeast Asian countries where it is called the Mekong River.

In recent years, however, the Sanjiangyuan region has witnessed worsening natural environment, shrinking wetland, lowering water level on lakes and water flows in the headwaters, and increasing desertification. As a result, the number of plants and animals is decreasing rapidly.

The establishment of the nature reserve is aimed at protecting the ecosystem, the highland swamp and natural habitat of the unique wildlife in the region and promoting sustainable economic development there, said Zhou Shengxian, an official with the State Forestry Administration.

It is also a part of the central government's strategy to develop the western regions of the country, he said.

A monument bearing President Jiang Zemin's inscription was erected by the Tongtian River, the major source of the Yangtze, this morning to mark the establishment of the nature reserve.

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A nature reserve covering the headwaters of China's three major rivers was set up Saturday in Qinghai Province, northwest China.

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