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2022-11-08 07:39:17

China has vowed to strengthen the protection of its fragile wetland ecosystems, as an ongoing international conference adopted a declaration Sunday calling for more effective action toward the conservation, restoration, management, and sustainable use of wetlands.

The country plans to incorporate 11 million hectares of wetlands into its national park system and implement about 30 wetland restoration projects, said Tan Guangming, deputy head of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration. China also pledged to improve the legal framework and provincial regulations on wetland protection based on its first specialized law that went into effect in June, and set up an international center in Shenzhen to conserve mangroves that buffer sea tides and provide habitats for aquatic life and migratory birds.

The pledges were made during the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, or Ramsar COP14, which is being jointly held in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and Geneva in Switzerland.

The Ramsar Convention, named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971, is an international agreement dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It has 172 contracting parties so far, with China joining the convention in 1992.

Known as “the Earth’s kidneys,” wetlands play a key role in purifying water, preventing floods, and maintaining biodiversity and habitats for plants, animals, and migratory birds. But they’re also among the most vulnerable and heavily degraded ecosystems globally.

Since the ratification of the Ramsar Convention five decades ago, natural wetlands have declined by 35% worldwide, according to the declaration. In China, which has the fourth-largest wetland area in the world, half of its coastal wetlands have been lost to reclamation over the past four decades, while some wetland restoration projects have been deemed to be risky to the local ecosystem due to inappropriate designs or incomplete risk assessments.

The pledges made during Ramsar COP14 add to China’s ambitions to better protect its wetlands. It plans to increase the proportion of protected wetlands nationwide to 55% by 2025, up from 52.7% currently.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: An aerial view of Tianfu Wetland Park in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, Nov. 16, 2019. VCG)