37 percent of China's total territory suffers from land degradation, according to China's Ministry of Water Resources.
Degradation including soil erosion, deforestation, salinity, reduced fertility and sand storms affects 3.56 million square kilometers and poses a threat to China's future economic prosperity, the ministry warned.
Foreign and domestic environment and law experts met with Chinese government officials on Saturday in Beijing for a three-day symposium to discuss legal strategies to tackle land degradation. The main topic of discussion was the revision of China's Water and Soil Conservation Law.
"The present Water and Soil Conservation Law promulgated in 1991 has gradually become out-of-date and is in urgent need of revision," said Liu Zhen, director of the Water and Soil Conservation Department under the Ministry of Water Resources, at the international symposium sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
"We started preliminary work revising the law in 2005 and are eager to use laws in other countries as examples," Liu said.
Guo Suoyan, an expert with China's Monitoring Centre of Soil and Water Conservation and head of the team of Chinese experts who are revising the law, said the law would impose stiffer penalties on people or bodies that cause soil degradation.
"The new version of the Water and Soil Conservation Law will require perpetrators to fully compensate for damage and will ascertain officials' responsibility," Guo said.
"A stable system of water and soil conservation input will also be established."
Guo expected the revision of the law to be finished in three to five years' time.
Bruce Carrad, a principle project specialist with the ADB, an organization that funds conservation projects in China, said the country could set a good example for the rest of the world.
"China has already set a good example in poverty alleviation," Carrad said. "And it is time to set a good example in improving the health of its soil and water."
Carrad said water and soil conservation is a highly complicated issue and requires an integrated approach.
(China Daily August 28, 2006)