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China Establishes over 1,700 Protected Areas

China announced Monday that it has established a comprehensive system of protected areas, including 1,757 nature reserves, 1,078 national forests and 690 scenic spots and historical sites.   

The statement was made by Zhu Guangyao, deputy minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), at the opening ceremony for the 5th World Parks Congress, which was launched in South African coastal city of Durban.


On behalf of all countries attending the 10-day congress, Zhu said "the total area of the protected areas accounts for more than 15 percent of China's total land." The figure is above the world average figure of 10 percent.


China is a vast country with a variety of geographical features, climate and vegetation types, ranging from plains, hilly land, plateau to the highest peak in the world Mount. Everest, from tropical rain forests, subtropical, temperate, frigid temperate and high altitude frigid forests to deserts, from oceans, freshwater lakes to highland freshwater and saltwater wetlands.


With its exceedingly abundant terrestrial and marine ecosystems, China boasts a land that is one of the areas richest in biodiversity in the world.


China established the first nature reserve in 1956. Since then, the Chinese government has came to realize that the establishment of protected areas and the protection key ecological systems, rare and endangered species as well as natural relics are of vital importance to China with 1.3 billion population.


In the past decade, China used the strategy of rescue protection, designating 85 percent terrestrial ecosystems, 85 percent wild fauna species and 65 percent wild flora species, especially rare and endangered wild flora and fauna species, within protected areas, despite China's rapid economic development.


According to Zhu, a number of protected areas that are of international significance have been enlisted in the global or regional networks of protected areas and catalogues of internationally important ecosystems by relevant international organizations.


Addressing more than 2,500 specialists and government officials from 170 countries, he pledged "China will also make great endeavor to speed up the establishment of ecological function protected areas to better protect and improve vital ecological systems."


China has actively participated in international nature conservation. It is also engaged in promoting the establishment of international common protected areas in partnership with Mongolia, Russia and other neighboring countries.


Meanwhile, China's management of protected areas is also faced with a variety of issues and challenges.


The loss of biodiversity in protected areas is still continuing due to weak management, insufficient fund and conflicts between development and conservation as well as among various stakeholders, the deputy minister said.


Heading a 17-member delegation, he said the Chinese system for categorizing protected areas is not yet turned towards the international system for categorization and management as proposed by IUCN.


"Cares of violating ecological principles and the laws of nature still occur. A comprehensive and scientific legal framework for protected areas is yet to be established. Conflicts between existing laws are still in existence," he said.


(CRI September 9, 2003)

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