Wetlands to Receive Even More Protection

China's wetlands have been earmarked for special protection after fears of a potential environmental disaster.

Making up one-tenth of the world's total area of wetlands, China's swamps are home to some 8,200 species of flora and fauna, including 1,500c waterfowl.

They also provide flood plains, preventing vast areas of land from being drenched and rendered useless.

China has about 66 million hectares of various types of wetland in total.

A leading forestry official said yesterday that the government had pledged to stop the wetlands from shrinking.

There are many wetlands in East China along the Yangtze River, such as those at Dongting Lake. Others include those in the north near the Yellow River.

The plan to try to prevent them disappearing will be one of the policies during the government's 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05).

Announcing the newly-drafted China National Wetlands Conservation Action Plan, the first of its kind, Ma Fu, deputy director of the State's Forestry Administration said that China will intensify its protection of the wetlands by tackling key things destroying them.

Ma was confident that the government's goal will be achieved in the next five years simply by taking a series of effective and practical measures.

To preserve trees and encourage regrowth, farmers will be advised not to graze livestock on some hillsides and fuel gathering will be stopped, Ma said.

Some farmland will revert back to woodland and some rivers and lakes will be dredged to allow floodwater to be discharged more easily.

The govercnment is determined to raise public awareness about wetland protection.

According to Ma, a legal system outlining the relevant rules for protecting the wetlands will be worked out and brought into effect as soon as possible.

Ma said he hopes the goal can be achieved by enforcing laws and regulating the commercial use of the natural wetlands, a problem seriously damaging the resources' major ecological functions - preventing flooding and maintaining wildlife.

The government has also decided to complete its first national survey on wetland resources, set up more wetland natural reserves throughout the country and register more of them in an international convention to strengthen multilateral co-operation.

Today, the wetlands are facing five major threats: rapid shrinkage; pollution; wildlife damage; degenerating ecological functions and the excessive misuse of the wetlands' water supply.

So far, China has set up 263 wetland nature reserve protection zones with seven listed in the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.


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