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China Urgently Needs to Protect Its Wetlands
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China will spend 16.5 billion yuan (US$2.1 billion) to protect and restore its wetlands during the 11th five-year-plan period (2006-2010).


Addressing a recent forum on the Yangtze River held in Changsha, the capital of central China's Hunan Province, Zhu Lieke, deputy head of the State Forestry Administration, said China has made an inventory of 173 wetlands, most of which are in northeast China and the Yangtze River Valley.


Thirty of the country's wetlands are listed in the international wetland catalogue, and one third of them are situated along the Yangtze.


"Phenomena such as the rapid drop in the number of lakes and fast shrinkage in lake area got worse as China's economy tears through resources," said Zhu, who warned that wetlands in the Yangtze River Valley face unprecedented ecological threats.


"The problems that plague wetlands in the Yangtze River Valley include pollution, ecological degradation and dwindling water resources," said Zhu. "The protection of our wetlands is urgent."


The 6,300-km-long Yangtze, the country's longest, originates in the Tanggula Range on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and passes through Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shanghai before emptying into the East China Sea.


Wetlands in the Yangtze River Valley include salty plateau lakes and plateau marshlands, the galaxy of lakes on the middle reaches of the Yangtze, and the coastal wetland near Chongming Island at the estuary of the river.


Dongting Lake, which flows into the Yangtze River and also serves as an important wetland, for instance, is shockingly polluted. Marine life has been decimated and people are catching a disease called schistosomiasis -- caught by swimming or wading in water where there are parasitic worms.


The water area of Dongting Lake has shrunk from 4,350 sq km in 1949 to present 2,625 sq km as a result of silting and land reclamation for farming.


According to Zhu, the country has already launched three programs to protect the wetlands in the Yangtze River Valley, including the national program for conservation of wildlife, plants and nature reserves, and the program to protect the Sanjiangyuan wetland in Qinghai Province. But much remains to be done.


(Xinhua News Agency April 20, 2007)

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