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More Cooperation Urged to Protect South China Sea
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Pollution still threatens the ecology of the South China Sea despite progress made by a program aimed at curbing environmental damage a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) official has warned.


Greater international cooperation was required to prevent over fishing, land and marine pollution and environmental damage, said UNEP official John Pernetta at a forum in south China.


The event held in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region from June 6 to 8, discussed progress on the UNEP program entitled "Reversing Environmental Degradation Trends in the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand" which was launched in 2002.


The program has established 18 pilot projects in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, which share a coastline on the South China Sea. The pilot projects are aimed at protecting mangrove forests, seaweed beds, wetlands, fishing grounds and coral reefs.


Almost 70 percent of the region's mangrove forests have disappeared since the turn of the century according to information on the UNEP website.


The scheme also aims to stop land-based pollution, to protect bio-diversity and the marine environment and to realize the sustainable use of marine resources.


China's authorities have taken a lead in establishing a mangrove and seaweed protection zones off Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said Pernetta, who leads the UNEP program.


The government has also been cooperating with other countries to protect wetlands and deal with land-based pollution, he said. The UNEP program had helped curb marine environmental degradation especially in the protection of mangroves, Pernetta added.  


An UNEP investigation in 1998 discovered that large areas of mangrove had been destroyed and wetlands dug up to build fish and shrimp ponds in the seven member countries but these activities have been reduced, he conceded.  


The program, funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), will end in 2008.


(Xinhua News Agency June 8, 2006)

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