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First National Ecological Survey Proposed
A proposal has been made at the ongoing annual session of the Ninth National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) for a national ecological survey that would raise data collection on ecology from the departmental level to the national level through establishment of a national ecological database comparable to those for population and land resources.

"For over 50 years, China has administered five national censuses and two national land resources surveys, but never has China made any survey on a national level of her ecological environment," said Niu Wenyuan, a CPPCC member who is also editor of the Report on China’s Sustainable Development. "So far, people already have clear pictures about the first two issues, but when it comes to the ecological environment, there is still much room to explore."

Currently, only various uncoordinated data exist on ecological issues, Niu said. “For instance, take just one case -- the annual speed of desertification. There are three different data regarding this information: One says about 2,600 square km (1,004 square miles) of land is facing desertification every year, the second about 2,400 square km (927 square miles), and the third 2150 square km (830 square miles) -- all of them are reported by various authorities. So which is the most correct?”

Niu emphasized that -- like information on population as well as land and natural resources -- information about a country’s ever-changing ecological environment enables people to understand the nation’s basic situation and to make appropriate legislation. A clear picture about China’s ecological environment over 9.6 million square km (3.7 million square miles) land area would also be beneficial to the whole world, he said.

During the past over twenty years, China has seen a rapid progress in nation’s economy, but at the same time, we human beings also seriously interfered the ecological environment, though we have no idea about the degree of such interference. After China’s entry into WTO, with the ecological environment increasingly influencing China’s social and economical development, it’s necessary to have a set of accurate data in this respect. From the research point of view, only with the help of these data, can people or researchers monitor the dynamic changes in our environment accurately.

Niu’s proposal received the backing of 17 other CPPCC members, including Ye Wenhu, a CPPCC member from the Environmental Science Center of Peking University.

"As soon as Niu discussed it with me, I agreed immediately," said Ye Wenhu, who added although it’s generally accepted that the water pollution has become a more serious problem and that the endangered species list is growing -- even experts lack a clear idea about the situation without a whole picture of China’s ecological system.

"The ecological environment in China is very dangerous, with many places has reached a critical stage," said Ye Wenhu. He cited as an example of the need for accurate information on ecological issues an experience he had last year in south China.

"The secretary of the municipal Party committee of a city told me that the five rivers make the city rich in water resources. However, when we looked into it, we discovered that four out of the five rivers cannot be used. When the amount of water conflicts with the quality of the water, how can he call the city rich in water resources?"

Ye Wenhu also visited Dashu town, Xuyong county of Sichuan Province where although several years have passed since people in the town refined sulphur and iron ore using traditional method, the water from the neighboring river called Peace River still runs black, yellow and red because of the waste from the refining process.

"People were all trying to escape from this badly polluted town, and the Peace River is no longer in peace. However, this case is only one of many other similar pollution cases across the whole country. But as for the specific statistics, we still need to take further investigation. Therefore, a national investigation is necessary for a deep understanding about China’s ecological situation." Ye Wenhu said.

According to He Zuoxiu, another CPPCC member supporting Niu’s proposal: "The data from the investigation will be the basic data, which belongs to China’s basic situation. And such work should have been done a long time ago."

(新华社 [Xinhua News Agency] March 4, 2002, translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn)

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