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China makes major progress in protecting its wetlands

Updated: Mar 26,2021 13:57    People's Daily Online

China has made great strides in enhancing wetland conservation and restoration over the past years, with over 52 percent of its wetland areas now coming under protection.

China ranks first in Asia and fourth in the world in terms of wetland area, with a total of more than 800 million mu (53.3 million hectares). The country's wetland area expanded by more than 200,000 hectares between 2016 and 2020. The country has also established a national wetland protection system composed mainly of national parks, wetland nature reserves, and wetland parks.

In January 2021, a draft law on wetland protection was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, for first review. The legislation on wetland protection will help with the establishment of a complete legal system to guarantee wetland protection, said Gao Hucheng, chairman of the NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee.

In 2018, six Chinese cities, among a total of 18 global pioneer cities, were recognized for their exceptional efforts to safeguard their urban wetlands at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Since the end of 2018, 93 aquaculture ponds and 20,000-meter dikes have been removed in the part of the West Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve in central China's Hunan province, and 86.4 hectares of wetlands, 200 hectares of habitats for birds, and 533.3 hectares of vegetation have been restored.

Since mid-February, the Liaohekou National Nature Reserve in Panjin city, Northeast China's Liaoning province, has become a destination for migratory birds. At present, more than 200,000 migratory birds of 50 species have been observed in the reserve thanks to the conservation efforts.

"In recent years, we have demolished coastal aquaculture ponds, restored 5,726.6 hectares of wetlands and expanded 17.6 kilometers of natural coastlines," said Xu Wei, head of the city's forestry and wetland protection administration.

While protecting the wetland ecology, China has also developed tourism through the appropriate use of wetlands, creating job opportunities and bringing prosperity to local residents.

Nearly 10,000 villagers living near the Longji terraced fields national wetland park in Longsheng county, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, were lifted out of poverty thanks to revenues from the park and subsidies from the local government.

China's wetland parks contributed 53.6 billion yuan ($8.21 billion) to regional economic growth and directly created 47,000 new jobs, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA). In 2019, China's national wetland parks received 385 million visitors.

Over the next five years, China will continue to intensify its efforts in wetland protection, aiming to bring 55 percent of its total wetland area under protection. The country will carry out a range of key wetland protection and restoration projects and build and restore 18,800 hectares of mangrove forests, said an official with NFGA.