CHINA / National

China's environment faces 'fragile' balance
(Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-05 05:50

China's natural resources continue to deteriorate, and new laws are needed to ensure a comprehensive solution to the growing environmental challenge, researchers said in a government report published yesterday.

More than 60 percent of the nation's land hangs in "fragile" ecological balance, the State Environmental Protection Administration said in the country's most ambitious report on the issue, published one day ahead of World Environment Day.

The report blames the bad-to-worse environmental trend on the country's comparative lack of natural resources.

China, for instance, lags other countries in forest coverage, and uneven distribution, poor quality, and rampant illegal logging are major problems facing forestry officials, the report said.

As of 2003, China had 175 million hectares of forests, about 16 million hectares more than in 1999, according to the latest survey by the state forestry agency. About 18.2 percent of the mainland was covered with forests at that time, up 1.66 percentage points over 1999.

But the forest coverage rate was only 62 percent of the world average. And per-capita forest area is only 0.13 hectares, which is less than one-fourth the world average.

Five provincial areas in the country's northwest account for 32.19 percent of the country's total territory, but the forest coverage rate in these areas was only 6 percent in 2003.

Meanwhile, China loses about 75.5 million cubic meters of timber to illegal logging each year, according to the survey.

China's grassland accounts for 41 percent of its mainland, but 90 percent of those areas have deteriorated, contributing to sandstorms that affect the north, according to yesterday's report.

Most of the country's wetlands, the largest in Asia and fourth in the world, are also declining. Only 40 percent of the nation's wetlands receive adequate protection, the report said.

The administration said improper farming is causing ecological deterioration through the excessive use of fertilizers, insecticides and plastic films.

A sharp increase in population, the booming economies of the coastal regions and increasing destruction of shore areas are also taking a heavy toll, according to the environmental agency.

In an effort to reverse the decline, the report calls for a national law to coordinate efforts to protect the environment. It said the separate laws China has passed over the previous years have failed to bring about a comprehensive solution because they focused only on individual issues.


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