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China to set up national park system

Updated: Sep 27,2017 5:15 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — More than a year after China piloted its first national park in the Sanjiangyuan area of Qinghai province, authorities have devised a scheme aimed at putting more of the country’s areas of outstanding natural beauty under protection.

The plan on a national park system released on Sept 26 demands the strictest protection for parks and placed them within “red line” zones, a key government strategy putting designated areas under mandatory protection.

By 2020, China aims to set up a batch of national parks and form a unified management system, according to the plan. The system will be improved with added management efficiency by 2030.

Similar to hundreds of national parks worldwide, the primary purpose for China to set aside such land is to protect a fragile ecosystem, which has been under constant attack from human activities.

“National parks are the essence of many nature reserves and the precious treasure of countries,” said Zhu Chunquan, country representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature China office.

Aiming mainly to protect China’s large natural ecosystems, the national parks will be set up in specific land, marine and ocean areas to achieve a combination of ecological protection and sustainable development, the plan said.

Development and construction that could hurt the ecosystem will be prohibited in the national parks, and practices such as illegal mining, discharging pollutants or poaching will be punished.

The plan said residents in the core regions of the national parks would be gradually relocated.

The design came as China piloted 10 national parks across the country last year, some protecting endangered species, others dedicated to preserving historic sites like the Great Wall or for the sake of the natural environment.

In March, China announced its plan to build a Giant Panda National Park spanning three provinces to help the endangered animals mingle and strengthen their gene pool, which will bring together pandas isolated on six mountains in Gansu, Shaanxi and Sichuan.

The park will cover 27,134 square kilometers, three times the area of America’s Yellowstone National Park.

As parks usually stretch across different regions, management can be tricky with jurisdiction becoming blurred.

Su Yang, researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, made the point that the current management system should be improved to remove restrictions incurred by different authorities.

To resolve possible problems, the plan on Sept 26 proposed setting up a unified national department to manage affairs of the national parks and build a multi-layer financing mechanism.

Meanwhile, under the prerequisite of efficient protection, the national parks will offer educational and leisure opportunities for the public.

China’s environmental protection lags far behind its economic status, and decades of breakneck growth have left parts of the country saddled with problems such as smog, and contaminated waterways and soil.

Earlier this year, China’s central authorities issued guidelines on an ecological “red line” strategy that will protect certain regions. The zones will be clearly defined by the end of 2020.