China, with the largest area of wetlands in Asia, has promised more
efforts to protect its vast yet declining wetlands.
The Chinese government has been successful in protecting wetlands,
and its more than 20 research findings have been included in the
world wetlands research database.
The wetlands, often referred to as the earth's "kidneys", play an
important role in water conservation and the prevention of erosion
The country has decided to give up its original plan of developing
its 25 million hectares of natural wetland for agricultural use, in
a bid to reinforce ecological system protection.
China possesses the world's fourth-largest area of wetland, larger
than the whole territory of Britain, with the number of wetland
plant, animal and fish species estimated at 5,000, 3,200 and 770,
The northeastern province of Heilongjiang, which possesses one
sixth of the country's natural wetland, has ceased wetland
reclamation and excavation. Provinces along the Yangtze River, the
Yellow River and coastal cities have taken similar measures.
Some of China's natural wetlands are of a unique type, and contain
various kinds of life forms, which have a massive impact on weather
changes and the maintenance of underground water.
China once held that "natural wetland is waste land", and listed it
as reserved resources for agricultural purposes. Half of the whole
country's mudflats and one tenth of the country's lakes have
disappeared owing to decades of reclamation.
Scientists say that the floods, droughts, red tides and sand storms
which have afflicted north China frequently in recent years, are
closely related to the shrinking of natural wetlands. Related
ecological damage has caused economic losses equal to four to eight
percent of the country's gross national product, according to
The Chinese government has started to implement the "Action Plan
for Protecting China's Wetland" for the next two decades, and set
up 39 key projects. The Ministry of
Agriculture has decided that natural wetland will be removed
from the list of reserved arable land resources.
According to the action plan, China will work out a legal system
for wetland protection, and set up an advanced monitoring network
for the wetland ecological system. A wetland protection regulation
has been worked out in Heilongjiang, first of its kind in China's
local governments, and will soon be submitted to the provincial
legislature for approval.
Research shows that the number of birds migrating via China and
sojourning in its wetlands has increased over the past five
consecutive years, and their period of stay has grown longer.
Certain unique wetland animal, plant or fish species, such as
golden monkey, dawn redwood and Chinese alligator, have also
received scientific protection.
Meanwhile, the country will strengthen technological cooperation
with relevant international organizations.
China joined the Convention on
Wetlands in 1992, and was described as a respectable member of
the convention by Secretary General Delmar Blasco in his article
commemorating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the
special program titled "Wetland Envoy" was launched last July in
central China's Hunan Province. The program is co-sponsored by the
China Youth Daily and the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), the world's largest
non-governmental environmental protection organization. Under the
program, students from 10 Chinese universities went to the wetland
areas along the Yangtze River to bring knowledge about the
importance of protecting wetlands to the local people.
Also with help from the WWF, the first publicity center on wetland
protection was opened to the public last September in the Dongting
Lake area, in Hubnan Province. During the torrential flooding in
1998, the area suffered tremendous losses, and afterwards the local
government decided to return cultivated lands in the area back to
the lake and set up a nature reserve there.
Canada-based environmental development corporation, RAGA, has
promised to invest US$8.4 million in the form of a loan from the
Asian Development Bank to conserve the wetlands along the middle
and lower reaches of the Heilongjiang, the boundary river between
China and Russia, and to restore the desolate marshes along the
middle and lower reaches of the Songhua River in Heilongjiang
Province, whose government is planning to restore nine new wetland
reserves with a combined area of 640,000 ha in the next five
Excessive cultivation has reduced the marshland area by 2.5 million
hectares, or two thirds, on the Sanjiang Plain, the plain between
the Songhua, Nenjiang and Heilong rivers in Heilongjiang. The local
government banned any cultivation and excavation in 1999, becoming
a pioneer in China in curbing the worsening wetland situation.
recent survey shows that the wetland resources in southwest China's
Yunnan Province have been well protected over the past two decades,
with the wetland area totaling 259,153 hectares, and a record
number of over 124 species of waterfowls, 432 species of fish, 118
species of amphibians and 236 species of reptiles.
the Tibet Autonomous Region, a number of wetland nature reserves
have been set up, and its Lalu Wetland Reserve is the largest
natural urban wetland in China.
Dubbed the "gene pool for species", wetlands are regarded as the
natural ecosystem with the most biodiversity and the most precious
biological and tourism resources.
The sharp decrease of wetlands as a result of reckless exploitation
has made the basin of the Yangtze River, China's longest river,more
and more unfavorable to human habitation. When there is serious
flooding, the river may overflow and destroy farmland because
nearby wetlands have been drained and are now occupied by buildings
or farmland. So the excess water has nowhere to drain into.
State Council, the Chinese cabinet, drew up a framework plan in
1998 for ecological conservation on the middle reaches of the
Yangtze which focuses on wetland restoration and protection. The
plan requires farmers to move out of flood-prone areas where they
have built houses and cultivated farmland, and restore the
Daily November 25,2001)