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Biodiversity Measures Urged by Lawmakers
Lawmakers concerned about the nation's biodiversity have called for a national supervision and co-ordination mechanism for the control and eradication of alien invasive species.

Citing severe damage to native species and ecosystems caused by non-indigenous invasive plants and animals, Zhang Shaozhi, Zhou Wenyu and other 30 legislators said China should establish a national council to co-ordinate its responses to the problem.

The legislators, who were in Beijing attending the first session of the 10th National People's Congress, which concluded on Tuesday, said control of alien species involves sectors including environmental protection, agriculture, fisheries, customs and quarantine.

Yu Zhidi, an official with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said that, although each sector is keen to ward off alien species, their understanding and awareness of the issue varies.

Presently, SEPA and other government departments are tackling "alien invasive species" separately - each conducting work in their own sectors, based on their knowledge of the issue, Yu said yesterday.

Judging from the country's actual conditions and lessons from abroad, China should establish a unified, co-operative system bringing together these sectors in order to deliver the best results in the prevention and control of alien invasive species, said legislators Zhang and Zhou.

The World Conservation Union, in a key guideline document on the issue published in 2000, also said control and eradication of alien invasive species is more likely to succeed if supported by informed and co-operating local communities, appropriate sectors and groups.

Zhou said: "We need to see to it that the multiple departments will pool their resources to build a national management council on alien invasive species, so that introduction of the species will be dealt with."

In addition to co-ordinating and supervising prevention and control work among different departments, the national alien species watchdog is expected to work out priorities in the fight against the species at different times and places, added Yu.

Both the legislators and Yu agreed that the government should make more of an effort to improve the public's understanding of alien invasive species.

Some people have narrowly defined the issue within the framework of "harmful foreign species." Yu pointed out: "You simply can't tell if an invasive non-native species is harmful or not. An alien invasive species initially considered beneficial may prove destructive later."

For example, water hyacinth, which was introduced to China as a flower a century ago and as livestock fodder 50 years ago, now grows wild all over the country, causing an annual loss of nearly 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion), according to SEPA statistics.

In response to Zhang's proposal to regularly publish a list of alien invasive species, Yu said SEPA has just announced 16 such species and will do so periodically.

Apart from water hyacinth, the 16 notorious species include: crofton weed, compositae, alligator weed, bullfrog, banana moth and apple snail.

(China Daily March 20, 2003)

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