COP14 Special / News

Ecological importance promoted across China

By HAO NAN | |  Updated:2022-11-01

China is home to more than 1,600 wetland parks, including 901 national wetland parks, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

With a total area of 3.6 million hectares, the national wetland parks now cover 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. They have contributed substantially to economic growth in surrounding areas.

One of China’s first national wetland parks, Xixi National Wetland Park in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province is known as the “kidney of Hangzhou” due to its cleansing properties provided by an abundance of water networks, rivers, ponds, moors, swamps and mud flats.

However, in the 1990s, a large number of real estate developers were engaged in construction there due to urban expansion. Local farmers were also engaged in pig farming, which seriously polluted the water of Xixi.

In 2002, the Hangzhou government decided to protect the Xixi wetland. It launched the first phase of the protection project in September 2003, with a series of measures taken.

For example, more than 13,000 villagers were moved to a newly built community close to the wetland in the city’s Xihu district. Some of them have since switched jobs to tourism service and trade.

A special plan for Xixi wetland’s tourism has been issued, with ecological protection a priority. It highlights the conservation of original vegetation and landforms, and bans visitors from most of the wetland areas. The daily visitor flow in the remaining areas is limited to about 5,000 to 6,000. This ensures the wetland’s water bodies can purify any natural waste produced by tourists.

In addition to maintaining the wetland’s ecology and water environment, the protection project has valued the wetland’s role in scientific research and education.

Five ecological protection and restoration areas were established in the first phase of the project, and a wetland science popularization and exhibition hall was set up at the park’s entrance. The park is also home to the Xixi Wetland Museum, which was designed by the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Arata Isozaki. The museum demonstrates the ecological diversity and cultural history of the wetland, and has become an important landmark.

Official statistics showed that by the end of 2020, the Xixi wetland housed 711 vascular plant species, 490 more than that in 2005; 898 insect species, 421 more than in 2005; and 193 bird species, 114 more than in 2005.

Another national wetland park is the Minjiangyuan park in Jianning county, Fujian province. The park covers a total area of 395.3 hectares, of which 241.48 hectares are wetlands.

In December 2017, the park launched a pilot construction project to upgrade itself into a State-level wetland park and restore its damaged natural wetlands. After years of development, the ecological wetlands and habitats of wild animals and plants in the park have been protected. Meanwhile, the species and quantity of wildlife have increased significantly and the quality of water has improved.

The park has been cooperating with Xiamen University to carry out protection, investigation and monitoring of its biodiversity. Currently, the park has 876 species of vascular plants, including south Chinese yew which enjoys China’s highest national-level protection. It also houses 304 vertebrate species and 142 bird species.

In Nyingchi, Tibet autonomous region, the 8,738-hectare Yani National Wetland Park at the confluence of the Yarlung Zangbo River and the Nyangchu River features three types of wetlands — permanent rivers, flood plains and marsh grassland.

Since 2016, 31 million yuan has been poured into the restoration and protection of the park and nearly 123 hectares of vegetation area has been recovered. The park authorities have hired scores of nearby villagers to patrol the park on a regular basis.

“We are all beneficiaries of the wetland protection drive,” an official of nearby Qugu village told Economic Daily.

“This used to be a desolate landscape. It became dusty on a windy day,” he recalled. The turning point came in 2016 when the wetland restoration program started. Trees were planted in riverside areas surpassing 87 hectares to prevent sandstorms and beautify surroundings. Back in that time, nearby villagers were each paid a 200 yuan daily allowance for their participation in the greening project.

Planting trees has become a tradition in the village. Without any allowance, villagers still volunteer to plant trees every March, the official said.

The improved environment has attracted flocks of birds to the park, which has become an ideal site to observe black-necked cranes. As a result, tourists also came in their hordes.

Profiting from tourism by selling farm produce or running rural inns, the villagers have become staunch advocates for wetland protection.

The park received 195,700 tourist visits in 2021, adding 2.1 million yuan to their combined income.

“We are trying to build Yani National Wetland Park into a shared green space that integrates wetland conservation, ecological improvement, leisurely sightseeing, and science popularization and environmental education, and to unleash the green development potential,” said Yang Hongqing, an official in charge of the Nyingchi forestry and grassland bureau’s animal, plant and wetland resources department.


A picturesque view of the East Lake National Wetland Park in Wuhan, Hubei province. The city is playing host to the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. provided to China Daily

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