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Ecological Protection Catching Up with Destruction

The State Forestry Administration (SFA) concluded in January that, based on four massive ecological investigations in recent years, activities that damage the environment no longer outweigh those that help protect it but many problems remain, according to the second October issue of twice-monthly Banyuetan.


Forestry resource preservation


According to the 6th National Forestry Resource Inventory Report released by the SFA in January: forest coverage increased by 15.97 million hectares on the previous survey conducted 1994-1998, and the increased acreage was 4.5 times the provincial acreage of Taiwan; the forest coverage rate grew to 18.21 percent from 16.55 percent; and the amount of timber cut fell 5.37 million cubic meters, a reverse in the increasing trend since 1990. What is more, the proportion of commercial to welfare forests changed from 83:17 to 63:37, reflecting the initial accomplishments of forestry management reform and indicating a historical transformation from timber production-oriented to eco-construction-oriented forestry.


Bio-diversity enhanced


China’s first survey of fauna and flora, wetland and giant pandas was carried out from 1995 to 2004. According to it, wild animals have stably increased their populations and distribution areas and their habitats improved. About 55.7 percent of terrestrial animals have seen their numbers increase, including the Chinese alligator and red ibis. The number of giant pandas increased 43.3 percent from 1,114 in 2000 to 1,596.


About 72 percent of 189 species of wild plants under state key protection numbered over 5,000 each, having reached the international standard for a stable species population.


China has one of the richest varieties of wetland in the world. There are 28 types wetland in five categories including seashore, river, lake, marsh and reservoirs. Natural and artificial wetland covers 38.48 million hectares, ranking the first in Asia and fourth in the world. About 40 percent of natural wetland is now protected.


Ecological degradation in key desertified regions improved


The third national survey of land desertification found that deterioration in key desertified areas has begun to be controlled. One breakthrough is that the recovered area has become larger than desert encroaching area. In the past several decades, land desertification has increased, but efforts to control it were unable to match its rate of increase from 1,560 square kilometers per year in the 1950s-60s to 2,100 square kilometers in the 1980s, and continued to worsen to an annual rate of 3,436 square kilometers at the end of the 1990s.


In recent years, especially since 2002, fundamental changes have taken place in desertification control. The annual recovered area has reached 19,000 square kilometers and surpassed annual encroachment. Key desertified areas of Hebei, Shanxi and Jilin provinces and Yulin in Shaanxi Province, the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province, and the lower reaches of the Tarim River in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have witnessed decreases in desertified land and greatly improved environments.


Encouraging sign in controlling water and soil erosion


The second survey on national water and soil erosion in 2003 found that the water-soil eroded area shrank 110,000 square kilometers to 3.56 million square kilometers in 2000 from 3.67 million square kilometers in 1990. The affected area around the Three Gorges reservoir decreased 23.7 percent from 38,800 square kilometers in the middle of the 1980s to 29,600 square kilometers in 2000. In the same period, the aquatic erosion area in the Beijing-Tianjin dust storm source region decreased 14.2 percent, while the wind erosion area increased 4.4 percent.


Eleven major rivers around the country saw a large decrease in the area of water and soil erosion. The Yangtze and Huaihe rivers drainage in 2003 had half the average water and soil erosion of many previous years; for the Yellow, Zhujiang and Qiantang rivers, it was under 30 percent of their previous years’ average; and along the Haihe, Liaohe and Minjiang rivers, water-soil erosion decreased over 85 percent. Only the Songhua River saw the figure surpassing the average of previous years.


Problems can not be ignored


According to sources from the SFA, the survey results also identified a lot of prominent problems:


l       The forestry coverage rate is only 61.5 percent of the global average standard, and per capita forest acreage and storage is only a fourth and sixth of the global average respectively;

l       The loss of forestry land is still serious as felling over quotas remains;

l       Artificial forests are dominated by too few species, and the low quality of forest has not improved fundamentally;

l       Some wild animals under state key protection are few, the populations of many species are falling, and some are on the brink of extinction;

l       Reclaimed lakes and marshes have amounted to 1.3 million hectares, causing the disappearance of over 900 natural lakes;

l       Areas affected by water and soil erosion occupy one-third of the nation’s territory, and the situation in places with a weak ecosystem such as the upper and middle reaches of major rivers is still serious.

l       2.67 million square kilometers, 27.9 percent of the country, has been encroached by deserts, with sand covering 1.74 million square kilometers, 18.2 percent of national territory. Human activities such as excessive exploitation, reclamation, and grazing have not yet been effectively controlled.


(China.org.cn translated from Banyuetan by Zhang Tingting, November 7, 2005)

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