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Ecological environment in China faces severe challenges
( 2003-10-25 17:36) (Xinhua)

China is facing severe challenges in curbing its ecological environment from degrading, environmental officials said, citing soil erosion, desertification, excessive development of water resources, water pollution and the encroachment of foreign species as major problems.

The country's ecological environment is degrading in its overall function and capacity of withstanding natural disasters, according to Yang Chaofei, director of the Natural and Ecological Protection Department of the State Environmental Protection Administration.

Yang said that despite the extending forest coverage, China still lacks forests with good ecological function in their mature period, which account for no more than 30 percent of the total forests.

Some 90 percent of China's grassland is degrading to various extent, and the desertification of land has enlarged from 2,100 square kilometers each year in the middle 1980s to 3,436 square kilometers by the end of 1990s, Yang said.

Meanwhile, water and soil erosion has been increasing in many places.

According to the latest statistics of the Ministry of Water Resources, China lost more than 5 billion tons of soil and 2.67 million hectares of arable land in the past half century, with total economic loss incurred exceeding 10 billion yuan (US$1.21 billion).

The utilization rate of water resources is at 60 percent for the Huaihe River, 65 for the Liaohe River, 62 for the Yellow River and as high as 90 percent for the Haihe River, all surpassing the internationally accepted warning line of 30-40 percent.

As a result, the natural process of water purification in the rivers is hardly realized, and the ecological environment along the rivers will be damaged, according to Wang Shucheng, minister of Water Resources.

Reduction in biological diversity and loss of home species is another challenge faced by China's ecological environment, Yang Chaofei said.

Some 189 species of China's endangered animals and plants are among the world's 740 endangered species listed in the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Foreign species are found in most of China's nature reserves, with over 70 percent of the country's wild paddies suffering destruction, while China's plant species are introduced to other countries in large quantities, Yang said.

The United States alone has introduced up to 932 species of plants from China into its own country, among which over half of the soybean species-related deals did not get the approval of the Chinese government, added Yang.

Environmental officials blamed the extensive mode of China's economic growth in the past decades for the present severe situation of ecological environment.

Owing to the unbalanced economic structure, the traditional way of using resources has not changed fundamentally and little attention was paid to protecting the resources.

"The idea of achieving fast economic growth at the cost of damaging the ecological environment still prevails in some regions, which brings great pressure to the ecological environment," said Yang.

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