China makes massive new commitment to wetlands protection



Posted on 02 February 2002  | 
Beijing, China � WWF today welcomed the Chinese government's launch of one of the largest wetland conservation and restoration projects in the world, by declaring the government's decision a 'Gift to the Earth' on February 2, 2002, World Wetlands Day.

The Chinese government's initiative is a major commitment to conservation as it involves the investment of 1 billion USD over the next 10 years, to set up more than 200 new wetland protected areas, and ensure effective conservation of more than 20 million hectares of wetlands.

The designation of nearly 2 million hectares of wetlands mostly in Northeastern China and coastal wetlands will protect the habitat of dolphins, seals, turtles migratory birds and fish.

It will also safeguard vast areas of biological richness such as the Yangtze River and Lakes.

"WWF awards the status of 'Gift to the Earth' to actions by a government, company, or individual which demonstrate environmental leadership and represent a globally significant contribution to the protection of the natural world. We congratulate the government of China for its commitment to protecting these crucial areas for people and wildlife," said Jim Harkness, Country Representative, WWF China.

Population growth and rapid economic development in China have resulted in a large number of wetlands in Eastern China being converted to farmlands, and growing pressure on those wetlands that still survive.

However, this decision brings to a total of 3.03 million hectares the area of wetlands protected under the Ramsar Convention by China.

Protection of these sites, which are listed under the Ramsar Convention is the immediate result of the implementation of China's Action Plan for Wetlands Conservation, which was promulgated by the State Forestry Administration in 2000.

Five years ago, Hong Kong's Mai Po Marshes were designated a Ramsar site. Today�s 'Gift to the Earth' represents the largest designation of wetlands by China, more than three times that of its total internationally protected wetlands to date.

Outside the Ramsar Convention, the Chinese government has also established 262 protected wetlandsand a total area of 16 million ha.

"Wetlands protection will be a greater priority for China in future and proper laws and policies will be formulated to facilitate this. Implementation plans will focus on key wetland sites of international importance," said Ma Fu, the Vice Minister of the State Forestry Administration.

For further information:

Lisa Hadeed, Communications Manager, WWF Living Waters Programme, tel: +41 22 364 9030, email: Lhadeed@wwfint.org

Zhang Yifei, Yangtze Programme Communications Assistant, WWF-China, tel.: +86 731 511 00 87, email:flyfly@public.cs.hn.cn

Notes to Editors:

1) WWF has now recognized 71 Gifts to the Earth since this initiative was launched in 1996. The first gift came from the President of the Russian Republic of Sakha, who pledged to place 70 million hectares of territory, including large areas of forest, under total protection. The 71 actions recognized by WWF as Gifts to the Earth stand as unprecedented conservation pledges and actions, and have also served as inspiration for others to take action themselves to help preserve the natural world. The gift is symbolic and is WWF�s highest accolade for conservation work. Each Gift represents an important success within one or more of the global conservation priorities recognized by WWF including: protection of forests, freshwater and marine ecosystems and endangered species; prevention of climate change and elimination of toxic chemicals.

2) The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 130 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 1133 wetland sites, totalling 91.4 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

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