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Nature Reserve Legislation to Be Introduced

The National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, is considering drafting a law covering the country's nature reserves.


"An important topic to explore is how to find a way to reconcile conservation with local people's needs to improve their lives," said Mao Rubai, director of the Committee of Environment and Resource Protection of the National People's Congress.


Mao heads a committee responsible for the legislation and it will submit a draft law to the NPC in 2006.


In November, Mao and his colleagues listened to researchers reporting their findings on the co-management of nature reserves.


The current regulation strictly forbids any unauthorized use of the reserves.


But based on their research on the pioneering World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) co-management program, Li Xiaoyun, dean of the College of Humanities and Development of China Agriculture University, and his fellow researchers concluded that there is a need to guarantee the community's rights to information as well as ensuring their participation in any project.


The establishment of nature reserves must also respect the collective ownership of local residents over land and forests, Li and his colleagues suggested.


Reasonable compensation needs to be provided for the community's losses in the process of building natural reserves and other related losses.


The researchers also suggest that co-management be included as a basic element in the management of nature reserves.


"If the interests of local villagers are not stipulated at a legislative level, much grassroots conservation work may not attain its objectives in the long run," said Wu Yusong, manager of the Yunnan Field Office of WWF China.


"In the process of proposing and approving the building of natural reserves, social impact assessments should be sufficiently carried out," Wu said.


"The findings from the joint research project on the co-management of nature reserves will be important references in our legislation on Nature Reserve Law," Mao added.


"Many details of the legislation are already under consideration," said Cai Wei, deputy director of the proposed law office of the committee.


The law is going to categorize nature reserves with various forms and multiple objectives, and clarify the responsibilities and benefits of different stakeholders for better natural resource management, according to Cai. 

(China Daily December 7, 2004)

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