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Yunnan invests in fragile northwest
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Yunnan Province will invest 7billion yuan (US$985 million) by 2010 to protect the biodiversity of an 80,000-sq-km area in its northwest, its governor said.

The province wants to set up a system within five years to protect the area by turning 13 percent of its northwest into nature reserves and increasing forest coverage to around 60 percent, Qin Guangrong, governor of Yunnan, said.

The Nujian River Gorge in Yunnan Province

The funding will go to environmental protection, new energy development, technology research and compensation for natural resource exploration, Qin said.

Yunnan's mountainous northwest accounts for less than 1 percent of China but boasts a third of its native species, such as black snub-nosed monkeys and takins. It is one of the world's richest temperate regions in terms of biodiversity.

In the past five years, the province has spent nearly a sixth of its extra tax revenue on protecting biodiversity in the region.

It's also enacted more than 40 environment protection regulations, punished thousands of illegal hunters and built numerous research labs and monitoring stations.

That's seen more endangered animal and tree species added to the list for the province's northwest.

Qin said the conflict between economic growth and environment protection presents many challenges.

Northwest Yunnan accounts for about one-eighth of China's hydropower capacity and is also a key base for non-ferrous metals.

But the majority of the region's population, 42 percent of them ethnic minorities, is not well-off.

"We must strike a balance between environmental protection and the need for development by exploring natural resources in the northwest appropriately and with minimal impact on the region's biodiversity," Qin said.

"Restricting development is not a solution. Continuing the old, backward production methods will not only damage biodiversity but will also undermine the region's sustainability," he said.

Qin pledged more investment, and greater effort to protect, biodiversity in Yunnan's northwest. He said protecting the region's rarest species of flora and fauna will be a priority.

The province will also strengthen international cooperation in the northwest, Qin said.

In recent years, Yunnan has worked with government agencies from Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden as well as from international institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.

The governor said the province also supports the work of numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Yunnan's northwest.

"The government and NGOs share the same goal - to protect the region's biodiversity - and we can communicate and help each other to achieve this," he said.

"Protecting Yunnan's biodiversity is not only the responsibility of the government and its residents, but it's our commitment to the nation and to the world."

A goden monkey in Yunnan Province

(China Daily March 10, 2008)

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