China has 65.94 million hectares of wetlands, ranking first in Asia and fourth in the world. The vast area and great variety have given rise to a rich biodiversity.
Early this year, the Chinese Government launched one of the largest wetland conservation and restoration projects in the world. This includes an investment of 8.3 billion yuan (US$1 billion) during the next decade, to protect 217 wetland areas, and ensure effective conservation of more than 20 million hectares of wetland.
China also expanded its number of wetlands of international importance by designating 14 provincial and national nature reserves to the Ramsar List, an addition of 1,959,383 hectares. Outside the Ramsar List, 289 wetlands have been demarcated as natural reserves since the 1970s, covering 16 million hectares.
The International Ramsar Convention, also called the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, was signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, and was backed by 106 countries by 1999.
To develop long-term plans for wetland conservation and management in China, the government now works closely with a number of non-government organizations (NGOs) in projects covering most of the wetlands in the country.
Apart from The Nature Conservancy from the United States, which focuses on Yunnan Province, many other international NGOs have also helped guard wetlands in China. Since the 1980s, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) started projects for wetlands protection in China.
Wetlands International (WI), a leading international non-profit organization dedicated to preserving wetlands worldwide, started its China programme, WI-China, in 1996.
The China Biodiversity Network (CBN) was founded in 1995 by the Earth Island Institute to preserve and sustain biological diversity, wildlands and cultural values in China through networking, research and direct support from local Chinese environmentalists.
(China Daily July 1, 2002)