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Biodiversity protection gains traction in legislature

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-03-12 09:58
Scientific researchers install infrared cameras in the Wuyishan National Park, East China's Fujian province on Dec 1, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

As a reporter covering environmental issues, I always have to touch on new topics. There is a long list of issues that I have covered in the past year.

Black and odorous water bodies, sewage outlet management, air pollution and desertification control, national parks, solid waste, garbage classification, new energy, soil remediation, climate change, and so on.

Among the few topics that I have yet to report on, biodiversity stands out due to my inadequate knowledge of it, despite it once being a short-lived topic at a dinner with a group of environmental reporters from other media outlets.

None of the reporters at the dinner had extensively covered the topic either, due to it being remotely related to people's daily lives.

However, during this year's two sessions, I was surprised to hear that Sun Wei, a female deputy to the National People's Congress from Shaanxi province, plans to make a suggestion to the country's top legislature about biodiversity protection. In a hurry to go to an appointment, I thought it was just a coincidence to hear people talk about the issue, which I believed was very much like a bench warmer at the basketball court and would fail to get even a little bit of attention.

When I interviewed Zhang Tianren, another national legislator and also head of a leading battery manufacturer for new energy vehicles, my thoughts about biodiversity protection soon showed me to be embarrassingly ill-informed.

I interviewed Zhang as I was following up on the disposal of scrapped batteries in China. With China having more new energy vehicles, the country is also seeing an increasingly larger pile of discarded batteries.

I had not expected Zhang to make only two suggestions on battery recycling-the area he is most familiar with-to the top legislature. However, among four of his motions-a more formal bill based on thorough research and thinking-one is on biodiversity protection.

I failed to ask any questions when Zhang introduced his motion about enacting a special law on biodiversity. Though I felt embarrassed, I did gain a lot of knowledge from him.

China ranks third in the world for its number of higher plant species. Though biodiversity is currently included in some laws and regulations, Zhang said they lack clauses about how biodiversity should be protected and how to punish violators.

When I asked why he introduced such a motion, a smiling Zhang said it was based on his on-site research and investigation as a national legislator. The knowledge I got from Zhang did save me from embarrassment again when I met the third national legislator planning to make a suggestion about biodiversity, and a national political adviser who came to the two sessions with a proposal to update the list of wildlife species under special State protection. The "bench warmer" in my mind did get attention.

This is my third consecutive year covering the two sessions. Previously, environmental topics that were of interest to national legislators and political advisers were mainly those with direct connections to people's lives. They included topics such as air and water pollution, rather than ones like biodiversity.

However, I've noticed a difference this year. This can be of great significance as it shows the Chinese people not only caring about their own lives, but also about the ecosystem they are part of. It is also a beginning for me, as I need to learn more about biodiversity. It is definitely on my reporting agenda now.

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