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Int'l Program to Reverse Biodiversity Damage
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China's efforts to curb desertification will get a push from a program announced yesterday by the European Commission (EC) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).


The EU-China Biodiversity Program (ECBP), with a total budget of close to 52 million euros (US$66.4 million), is designed to assist China in its goal to manage the ecosystem and help implement international conventions related to biodiversity.


The five-year program, formally launched yesterday, will receive a contribution of 30 million euros (US$38.3 million) from the EU, and 405,000 euros (US$517,000) from the UNDP. Balance funding will come from China's State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) and other partners willing to join the program.


"The government of China is committed to reversing biodiversity losses across the country," said Franz Jessen, deputy head of the EC delegation in Beijing. The ECBP will provide support to China in designing biodiversity policies and strategies, and in implementing projects on the ground.


Arid and semi-arid areas, found mainly in western and northern regions, account for more than half of China's total land area.


"Biodiversity conservation in these areas is facing grave challenges posed by harsh natural conditions coupled with the impact of irrational economic development activities, threatening the continued existence of quite a number of species," SEPA's Vice Minister Wu Xiaoqing said at yesterday's launch ceremony.


"China is one of the world's richest sources of biodiversity, which is not only a huge natural life resource for China, but also a treasure for the whole world."


About 40 percent of China's land is classified as dry-land ecosystems, and approximately half of this area has been affected by land degradation and desertification, said Kishan Khoda, assistant resident representative of UNDP China.


China signed the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1993, a treaty that seeks to anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity around the world.


According to the convention, biodiversity loss in China should be brought to a halt by 2010.


"Although China has taken great steps to conserve biodiversity and meet its international commitments, at present, biodiversity continues to be degraded," said Wang Yexu, deputy division chief of SEPA's Foreign Economic Cooperation Office.


"High-level commitment does not always lead to action in the field. Further, roles and responsibilities are dispersed, sometimes overlapping and sometimes duplicated."


Part of the funding will be used for policy making, monitoring and raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity within the government. But most of it will be spent on financing local field projects in west and south China.


Wang said that the EU picked west and south China as beneficiaries of the funding because of their biodiversity richness and economic poverty.


(China Daily May 23, 2006)

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