Work stepped up on wetlands protection

By Li Hongyang | China Daily | Updated: 2023-01-04 06:48
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A snow leopard stands in Three-River-Source National Park, Qinghai province, in July 2020. XINHUA

Protection bolstered

According to a plan released by the central government in October, by 2025, China will have protected 55 percent of its wetlands and added 20 such areas of international importance and 50 of national importance.

After the nation's first specialized law on protecting wetlands was introduced on June 1, comprehensive protection was strengthened, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

The wetlands protection legislation clarifies the division of management and introduces harsher punishment for damaging wetland areas.

The law restricts construction at important national wetlands and bans harmful activities, including land reclamation, overgrazing, overharvesting and discharging wastewater.

Human activities at wetlands, such as tourism, planting, animal husbandry, aquaculture and shipping, must be undertaken carefully to minimize adverse impact.

In July, a monitoring system, the first of its kind in Hubei, was given a trial run at Chenhu Lake Wetland in Wuhan. It has since recorded real-time data and helped with patrol work.

In 2021, the wetland was home to some 86,000 birds from 227 species, according to figures from the monitoring system.

Officials at the reserve said bird watchers and patrol guards may inadvertently miss counting some of the birds, but the system performs this task accurately. It detects the type of birds arriving or leaving the wetland, and the areas they prefer, by identifying species through the sounds they make. It also monitors bird sounds in the wild and compares them with those in its database.

Yan Jun, head of the Wuhan Bird Watching Society, said that before 2015, just 30,000 birds spent the winter at Chenhu Lake Wetland, as the local environment was not ideal for them.

"At the time, nets were used for cage aquaculture in the lake, which should have been the wintering ground for birds. Fishing boats operated on the lake, and nets dotted the water surface," Yan said.

Since 2015, the local government has removed illegal fishponds in the lake and introduced environmental restoration projects. By January last year, the lake was home to about 86,000 birds, according to surveys carried out by Yan's team.

Central government data show that China's wetland protection rate now exceeds 50 percent, up from 43.5 percent in 2015, and the nation now has 64 wetland areas of international importance and 29 such areas of national importance.

Bao Daming, deputy head of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration's wetland management department, said at a news conference in November that despite the achievements made in conserving wetlands, China needs to strengthen their restoration scientifically and systematically.

"Specific measures are needed for wetland governance in different regions to improve the integrity of wetland ecosystems," Bao said.

"We still need more measures that mirror the natural way to restore wetlands, and also to protect wildlife habitats and vegetation."

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