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    Coastal zones key to ecosystem defence
Wang Ying
2005-02-03 05:48

Highlighting sustainable development and biodiversity protection, China has placed its coastal zones as a top priority for ecosystem preservation.

China and the UN have forged a partnership to preserve marine biodiversity in coastal areas of the South China Sea, said Sun Zhihui, vice-director of the State Oceanic Administration.

Jointly initiated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Chinese Government, an eight-year biodiversity maintenance project was launched yesterday in Beijing.

Executed by the State Oceanic Administration, the project is designed to help maintain biodiversity through a variety of management approaches such as developing eco-tourism, controlling pollution, rebuilding mangroves and coral reefs, as well as raising local people's awareness of the need for biodiversity preservation.

With a total budget of roughly US$13 million, the project has two phases.

The first, from this year to 2008, will concentrate on building four demonstration sites, including the Nanji Islands in East China's Zhejiang Province, Sanya marine protection area in South China's Hainan Province, Shankou mangro-ve reserve in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Dongshan-Nan'ao migratory species corridor along the boundary between Fujian and Guangdong provinces.

In the second, from 2008 to 2012, the project will focus on promoting the successful experience of the demonstration sites to nearby marine areas.

"China is a 'mega-biodiversity' country, hosting an estimated one-10th of the total number of species in the world, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics along the country's South China Sea coast," Sun said.

However, "the country's coastal and marine biodiversity is under threat," he said. Sun pointed out that China has experienced unprecedented economic growth, social change and population growth in the past decade, provoking many environmental problems in coastal zones, such as poorly planned coastal development, pollution, over-fishing, habitat destruction, and the indiscriminate destruction of mangroves.

The degradation of the earth's marine ecosystem has huge impacts on the global environment, exemplified by the decline of coral reefs. That has increased the vulnerability of coastal areas to such natural disasters as the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, said Khalid Malik, a UNDP representative in China.

"Although we do not yet know the entire story of why and how the tsunami happened in the India Ocean, the intimate linkage between large marine ecosystems and atmosphere should be carefully studied," Malik said yesterday.

Globally, 12 per cent of all bird species, 23 per cent of all mammal species, 32 per cent of all amphibians and 34 per cent of all gymnosperms are threatened with extinction, according to statistics from the World Conservation Union.

Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption exacerbated by poverty and other social and economic factors, conti-nue to destroy habitats and species at an unprecedented rate, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to the International Convention on Biological Diversity "Biodiversity 2005" in Paris late last month.

(China Daily 02/03/2005 page2)


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