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8-Year Marine Biodiversity Project Launched

An eight-year biodiversity maintenance project was launched yesterday in Beijing by the government, the UN Development Program (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility.

Sun Zhihui, vice-director of the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), said that China and the UN have forged the partnership to preserve marine biodiversity in coastal areas of the South China Sea.

The project will be implemented by the SOA to help maintain biodiversity through development of eco-tourism, pollution control, rebuilding mangroves and coral reefs, and raising local people's awareness of the need for preservation.

With a total budget of roughly US$13 million, the project has two phases.

The first, to 2008, will concentrate on building four demonstration sites, the Nanji Islands in Zhejiang Province, Sanya marine protection area in Hainan Province, Shankou mangrove reserve in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the Dongshan-Nan'ao migratory species corridor along the provincial boundary between Fujian and Guangdong.

In the second, from 2008 to 2012, the project will focus on using experience from the demonstration sites in other marine areas.

"China is a 'mega-biodiversity' country, hosting an estimated one-tenth of the total number of species in the world, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics along the country's South China Sea coast," Sun said.

However, "the country's coastal and marine biodiversity is under threat," he said. Sun pointed out that China has experienced unprecedented economic growth, social change and population growth in the past decade, provoking many environmental problems in coastal zones, such as poorly planned development, pollution, over-fishing, habitat destruction, and the indiscriminate destruction of mangroves.

The degradation of the earth's marine ecosystem has a huge impact on the global environment, exemplified by the decline of coral reefs. That has increased the vulnerability of coastal areas to such natural disasters as the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, said Khalid Malik, a UNDP representative in China.

"Although we do not yet know the entire story of why and how the tsunami happened in the India Ocean, the intimate relationship between large marine ecosystems and the atmosphere should be carefully studied," Malik said yesterday.

Globally, 12 percent of all bird species, 23 percent of all mammal species, 32 per cent of all amphibians and 34 per cent of all gymnosperms are threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union.

Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption exacerbated by poverty and other social and economic factors, continue to destroy habitats and species at an unprecedented rate, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to the International Convention on Biological Diversity in Paris late last month.

(China Daily February 3, 2005)


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