World's Highest, Largest Urban Wetland to Be Protected

An environmental protection program at the cost of 92.9 million yuan (US$11.2 million) has been launched on Tibet Plateau's Laru wetland, the world's highest and largest urban natural wetland.

Under the program which was officially launched on Tuesday, a 17.15 kilometer-long transparent enclosure, reservoirs and water diversion channels are expected to be built around and within the wetland.

Located at Lhasa, the capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Laru wetland will moderate and improve the city's climate by absorbing 78,800 tons of carbon dioxide and adding 57,300 tons of oxygen every year.

For years local residents neglected the wetland; and overgrazing and over-draining have shrunk its area from 10 sq km to 6.2 sq km.

Approved by the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, the Laru wetland reserve was set up in May 1999 for the better protection of the wetland, at an elevation of 3,645 meters, the world's highest.

Since then, 21 illegally-built houses within the wetland area have been ordered to be demolished, 26.7 hectares of farmland returned to natural wetland and two cement plants removed, and rock quarries closed down.

Meanwhile, over 7,500 trees have been planted in and around the wetland and diversion channels taking water from the wetland have been blocked.

(Xinhua News Agency July 27, 2002)