CHINA / National

Environment faces 'fragile' balance
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-05 05:37

The state of the ecology has continued to deteriorate, the country's top environment watchdog warned yesterday and promised better protection efforts.

A distressed family yesterday take out dead fish from their pond in Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province. The fish were first found floating on Friday afternoon, possibly due to pollution from a nearby factory, according to Yin, the owner of the fishpond. Fish, shrimps, crabs and tortoises weighing 50,000 kilograms were dead by yesterday, causing a loss of 300,000 yuan (US$37,500), Yin said. The local environment authorities are investigating the case. [newsphoto]

Excessive logging, degradation of natural pasture land, shrinking wetlands, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers in farmland and contaminated coastal areas are just some of the major problems the country faces, according to China Ecological Protection, the first overview report released by the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA).

The release of the report coincides with World Environment Day today, and the national theme is to promote "Ecological Safety and an Environment-friendly Society."

"The Chinese Government places great importance on ecological protection and has adopted a series of strategic plans," the report said. "As a result, the ecological environment in some key areas has improved," the report said.

"But due to the meagre per capita resources and regional disparities, the deterioration trend of the country's fragile ecological environment as a whole has remained unchecked," said the report.

Among the findings are:

The ecology of 60 per cent of the country's territory is considered fragile. A national study in 2000 rated the ecological quality of one-third of the country's territory as good and another third as bad.

About 90 per cent of natural pasture land, which accounts for more than 40 per cent of the country's territory, is facing degradation and desertification to some extent. Desertified pastures have become the major source of sand and dust storms.

About 40 per cent of the country's wetlands are under effective protection but vast areas of natural wetlands continue to wither or shrink due to farming and industrial activity.

"Large areas of natural wetlands have been replaced by paddy fields or construction, especially in the Yangtze and Pearl River delta regions," said Shu Jianmin, vice-president of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

SEPA will push for a comprehensive legal system on environment protection and strengthen law enforcement to crack down on violations, the report said.

Factoring in the environment for calculation of economic growth and building an ecological compensation mechanism will top SEPA's agenda, said the report.

While supporting the measures SEPA has mapped out, some environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are sceptical about the need for more legislation.

"We already have many environmental protection laws and the problem is how to implement them," said Li Junhui, who is in charge of public co-operation in Friends of Nature.

"Our biggest challenge lies in how to incorporate environment protection into economic development policies," she said.

Li also suggested giving enterprises incentives to reduce ecological damage they cause.

Liao Xiaoyi, president of Global Village of Beijing, said "local environment bureaus should be independent of local governments and under direct SEPA command."

Liao would also dearly like to see a public participation mechanism on environment protection, which is supported by the central government and involves enterprises, environment NGOs and the people.

(China Daily 06/05/2006 page1)


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