COP14 Special / Multimedia

Cities flourish through results of conservation

By YIN RUOWEI | |  Updated:2022-11-02

China is a vast country boasting diverse landscapes and mesmerizing geographical features. Of them, wetlands are of growing importance to make China a more beautiful land.

There are 43 cities worldwide that hold Wetland City Accreditations, of which 13 are in China, the highest number of any country, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

The accreditation is an honor for the protection of urban wetland ecology. It is given by the Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental environmental agreement.

Wuhan, capital of Central China’s Hubei province, is among the ranks of  International Wetland Cities in China. It is playing host to the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands from Nov 5 to 13.

“The main venue of the meeting is located near the Wuhan East Lake National Wetland Park, where delegates can immerse themselves in the scenery of the wetland, and perceive the city’s progress in wetland ecological protection and restoration,” Zhu Gongwei, deputy secretary-general of the Wuhan government, said at a news conference ahead of the event. “Moreover, the meeting will be held during the migration season, when the captivating sight of hundreds of birds in flight is expected to enchant delegates,” Zhu added.

Wuhan is a city of rich water resources. It has 166 lakes, 165 rivers and 1,624 square kilometers of wetlands, and is known as “the city of hundreds of lakes”. Over the past few years, Wuhan has been committed to promoting wetland ecological restoration. A total of 10 wetland parks and five nature reserves were set up. The area of wetland has been maintained and water quality in urban areas was improved.

The number of bird species in Wuhan reached 442, including 99 species on the national key protection list. The city is the breeding ground of Baer’s pochard, a protected rare diving duck.

Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region in Northwest China, was among the first six Chinese cities granted the status of International Wetland Cities in 2018. It boasts a host of lakes, rivers and streams, which is rare on the Ningxia Plain, long known as an arid area.

This year alone, the city has restored 3,533 hectares of wetlands, aiming to create a biological corridor along the Yellow River, which runs through a number of cities, including Yinchuan.

Liangping district in Chongqing is another success story of protecting wetlands. It is the first of its kind in Southwest China with the title of Wetland City.

Shuanggui Lake National Wetland Park, which covers nearly 350 hectares, is located in the district. A total of 277 wild animal species — including 207 birds — and 623 wild plant species can be found in the park. The number of greater painted-snipe, a wading bird which likes to live in wetland, soared from six to more than 120 in just one year.

Liangping has also taken the lead in exploring the protection and utilization of small and micro wetlands in rural areas. It has more than 400 such wetlands. More than simply wetlands, they have crossover collaborations with organic farms, homestays, and healthcare centers as well as tourist agencies, which has resulted in an income increase of 52,000 yuan ($7,200) per household on average.

In June, Hefei in East China’s Anhui province was listed in the world’s second batch of cities with the Wetland City Accreditations. Behind this title is the city’s years of tireless efforts in wetland protection.

Hefei boasts the Chaohu Lake, China’s fifth-largest freshwater lake, five national wetland parks and three provincial wetland parks. The total wetland area in the city is 118,200 hectares. Up to now, 10 wetland parks around Chaohu Lake have been developed. A total of 4,333 hectares of wetland which were once either residential areas or farmlands have been returned to their original state.

Panjin in Liaoning province is also on the second list of International Wetland Cities. The coastal city standing at the Liaohe River estuary in Northeast China boasts nearly 3,150 sq km of wetlands, including a Wetland of International Importance and a provincially important one, as well as nature reserves at national and provincial levels, and two pilot national wetland parks.

The wetlands in Panjin, a key stopover for migratory birds, provide habitats for 463 wild animal species, 78 of them under the country’s priority protection. Since August 2018, the city has restored some 5,727 hectares of coastal wetlands and added 17.6 kilometers of new natural coastlines.

The improvement of wetland ecology across the nation has required long-term efforts by ordinary people who devote themselves to wetland protection.

Li Jiayuan, a ranger with the Wuhan Anshan National Wetland Park, is one of them. He often works around the clock, and even through the wind and the rain, he sticks to his post, according to the park.

He has a deep love for the birds in the park. He often carefully watches the birds with binoculars and tries to figure out their species. Once he was so focused on a bird that he accidentally fell into a pond.

Li said that wetland parks in Wuhan have gained in popularity among the public and seen a growing number of visitors. To make visitors, who go to the lake to catch fish, or operate drones to take pictures, understand the importance of wetland protection, he takes a lot of time to explain relevant policies to them.

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