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Environment Crucial to West

Environmental officials have vowed to take more steps to protect endangered local biological resources in China's western regions.

Local governments in the regions are being urged to make good use of rich biology resources by developing agriculture, growing medicinal plants and promoting ecological tourism.

Making sustainable use of biology resources has topped the environmental protection agenda in western areas during the country's 10th Five Year Plan period (2001-05), according to Wang Dehui, deputy director of the Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

"Biodiversity is now being endangered in the west by illegal poaching and trade in endangered animals and plants," said Wang.

"Effective measures have been adopted to protect biology resources in western China, including adjusting industrial structure and cutting down the trade of endangered species," said Wang.

Wang made the remarks at the second International Conference on the Application of High-New Science and Technology in Biodiversity Conservation and Utilization.

Western China is made up of 11 provinces, autonomous regions and Chongqing Municipality, and has the largest amount of plants and animals in China.

There are more than 20,000 types of lichen or moss, covering 70 per cent of these kinds of plants in China, according to the Kunming Institute of Botany under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wang said the ban of facai trade is a good example of how to stop the exploitation of biology resources to protect the environment.

Facai is a kind of vegetable grown on the grasslands of western areas, especially in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and is served as the main garnish of Cantonese cuisine.

But digging up the grasslands has left them badly damaged and transformed some of them into desert, producing the sandstorms which now affect Beijing.

The State Council issued a decree forbidding the picking and trade of facai and the grasslands have recovered in part.

The local government of Ningxia's Tongxin County, the biggest facai market in China, has helped the farmers turn to other industries with loan support and other financial assistance, according to Hu Zhongren, vice-head of the county.

The State Forestry Administration will launch a 20-year project in 2010 to save 15 endangered animal species, including the giant panda, Tibetan antelope and golden monkey, according to Chen Jianwei, director of the administration's department of endangered species protection.

"Biodiversity is a basic resource and an environmental safeguard for the ecological environment and industrial and agricultural development in the west," said Zang Runguo, professor of Institute at the Forest Ecological Environment and Conservation of the Chinese Academy of Forestry Science.

(China Daily 05/17/2001)

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