The Chinese government has launched a first-ever national wetland protection project, allocating 500 million yuan (US$62.5 million) to the protection and recovery of wetlands. The project was ratified last year by the State Council.
Speaking at a forum in Yinchuan City on wetlands in the Yellow River valley, Zhao Xuemin, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said that, excluding paddy fields, China has natural and semi-natural wetlands that account for 3.77 percent of China's total land area.
However, drought and unsustainable farming methods have resulted in a fall in wetland area and loss of function, particularly in western China, Zhao said.
Zhao said the government was planning to bring wetlands protection under the comprehensive management of China's river valleys and has conducted pilot projects in the Yellow River valley, tablelands and coastal areas.
A state-level wetlands park in Yinchuan, a city located on the banks of the Yellow River, has been established in a bid to save regional wetland areas.
As the country's third state-level wetlands park, the park, consisting of lakes, marshes and meadows, covers over 2,000 hectares and is home to 114 species of plant and 107 species of bird.
The park is also a major stopover for migratory birds in western China.
The other two state-level wetlands parks, both in east China, are in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, and Qinhu Lake, Jiangsu Province.
China has 66 million hectares of wetlands, the most in Asia and fourth largest in the world.
Lakes and marshes constitute the majority of Chinese wetlands, which play a vital role in water conservation, flood prevention and soil purification. They also help to maintain biological diversity.
(Xinhua News Agency September 26, 2006)