Project protects river ecosystems
China has given the green light to an overall programme to protect the ecosystem in the areas cradling the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang-Mekong rivers.
The long-awaited programme has passed the examination of the State Council, China's cabinet, but official approval will be needed for it to take full effect, according to an official who declined to be named.
Heavy investment will be poured into a State natural reserve covering 152,300 square kilometres of land or over 40 per cent of the total fountainhead area of the three major rivers for rehabilitating its fragile ecosystems.
The Yangtze and Yellow rivers are the two largest in China while the Lancang-Mekong River flows to the South China Sea through Viet Nam.
Officials and experts were confident that, by 2010, worsening ecosystems will be turned into a positive cycle and begin rehabilitation with the help of the programme through controlling degradation of pastures and desertification.
"The move is of vital to the national protection of wetlands as the headwaters of the three major rivers is China's largest wetland with multiple natural functions," Zhou Shengxian, top official of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said.
The protection of wetland ecosystems will help China maintain sustainable development in following years, he said yesterday in Beijing at a gathering celebrating this year's World Wetland Day (WWD).
The cradle land, located in the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an average altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, covers an area of 363,000 square kilometres in the southern part of northwestern Qinghai Province, which is home to 16 counties and Tanggula township under three Tibetan autonomous prefectures.
The crisscrossing of rivers and lakes, along with ice-capped mountains and glaciers, have earned the cradle land the reputation of "kidney of the earth" for its great capacity to retain water resources, resist flooding and dry spells, relieve pollution, and keep biodiversity in existence.
However, global warming, growing population and excessive human activities have resulted in water erosion and shrinkage in grassland and biodiversity in the areas, said Mu Dongsheng, vice-governor of Qinghai.
The newly examined overall programme to take effect in the years ahead will focus efforts on grass growth by grazing limitation, wetlands protection, cloud seeding, and energy development in areas inhabited by 223,100 grazers.
Nine wetlands listed
During yesterday's celebration of WWD with the theme of "the cultural and biological diversity of wetland," China added nine wetlands to the list of wetlands of international importance, SFA announced.
The nine wetlands, which cover 400,000 hectares, are located in the Tibet Autonomous Region as well as Liaoning, Yunnan and Qinghai provinces.
These additions to the list, known as the Ramsar Wetlands, brought the total number of China's contributions to 30, totalling 3.43 million hectares or 9.4 per cent of China's total wetlands.
China has the largest wetland area in Asia, covering about 65 million hectares, which is 10 per cent of the world's total.
Chinese wetlands are home to 1,540 varieties of plants and 1,500 species of animals, including 300 species of waterfowl, which account for one-fourth of China's bird families.
"To date, China has brought 16 million natural wetlands or nearly 40 per cent of the type under effective protection with many of their natural functions rehabilitated," Zhou said.
"We must protect out wetlands and pass such wealth to the following generations" he said, quoting the slogan suggested by the year's WWD as saying "there is wealth in wetland diversity don't lose it."
(China Daily 02/03/2005 page1)
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