The environmental watchdog has called for the establishment of a national ecological reserve in Dunhuang, Northwest China's Gansu Province, to prevent the further deterioration of the environment there.
An official with the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) made the appeal after the media reported that Dunhuang's environment had deteriorated.
Dunhuang was once an important site on the ancient Silk Road, a 2,000-year-old trade route that linked Asia and Europe, starting in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, and ending in Europe after passing through southern and central Asian countries.
In 1987, the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, also known as the Caves of 1,000 Buddhas, were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Surrounded by a desert, Dunhuang has an extremely arid climate and a very fragile ecosystem. Global climate change and human activities have resulted in a decline in the amount of vegetation.
The official said major rivers in Dunhuang had run dry and lakes were disappearing. The water table has dropped sharply and natural disasters such as sandstorms are common.
The deteriorated ecosystem in Dunhuang poses a threat to the local cultural relics and natural scenery, the official said.
Besides the natural factors, defects in the administration of Dunhuang have made protecting the ecosystem there difficult, the official said.
He added that the administrative system had failed to come up with a comprehensive plan to balance the needs of economic development, social development and environmental protection.
The SEPA called for local environment-protection departments to improve their environment impact assessments and to do more to restrict the use of natural resources.
(China Daily 08/13/2007 page2)