World Wetlands Day 2003: China



To Commemorate the Seventh World Wetlands Day

Zhou Shengxian
Vice Chair of the National Committee of Greening
Administrator of the State Forestry Administration

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat has gone almost 30 years since its establishment in 1971, and at present a total of 135 countries have become its contracting parties. They are joining in a common action to protect wetland and its valuable natural resources. They collaborate in and improve global action of conservation and wise use of wetlands, and call for celebrating the 7th World Wetland Day (WWD).

The human society has reached such a stage that people cannot survive without natural environment and natural resources. Since beginning of 20th century the world economy has grown fast, and at the same time the environment has also changed a lot. In some places the environment has suffered from destruction, particularly from environmental pollution, acids rain, ozonosphere reduction, climate change, expanded desertification and shortage of fresh water, which to some extent has threatened development of human society.

The WSSD-2002 conducted in Johannesburg highlighted some alarming statistics: 1.1 billion people without access to safe freshwater, 1.7 billion living in water scarce area, and 2.1 billion using water without safe treatment. In addition, the World Bank made estimation that 1.4 billion people of 48 countries would face severe water crisis by 2025. For above reasons the United Nations have decided that year of 2003 be International Year of Freshwater.

The problem of freshwater is linking with many other issues, and we should care for wetlands that play a role in solving problem of freshwater. Talking about necessity to keep health of natural eco-systems people often ignore the roles of wetlands. Wetlands is an important component of freshwater cycle, therefore wetland conservation and wise use is extremely necessary while solving problem of freshwater crisis. Well-protected health of wetlands can secure freshwater and its waterhead site, and properly conserved natural properties of freshwater wetland may maximize its functions of providing water source and its economic, social and ecological benefits as well. Wetland is also a base for sustainable development of agriculture, therefore it is important for poverty reduction in rural area. The theme of WWD-2003 is "No wetlands - No water" proposed by Standing Committee of Ramsar Convention reminds us about wetlands while dealing with freshwater problem.

China is a country with richest resources and largest area of wetland in the world. Conservation and wise use of wetland is closely linked with development of national economy. Since her joining with Ramsar Convention in 1992 Chinese government has realized her duties specified in the convention and achieved outstanding success in conservation of valuable resources of wetlands.

Firstly, the State Forestry administration together with other 16 ministries/committees promulgated the National Wetland Conservation Action Plan for China, that put forward guiding principles and action programme for wetland conservation;

Secondly, the National Programme for Conservation of wild Fauna and Flora and Improvement of Nature Reserves for China has been launched that has identified the priority area of wetland conservation and its development emphasis;

Thirdly, the State Forestry Administration, which has been appointed by State Council as a focal agency, in cooperation with other 10 sectors has completed the National Programme of Wetland Conservation Planning for China. This indicates that Chinese government has determined to conserve and restore ecological system of wetland through engineering measures;

Fourthly, the six-year national inventory on wetland resources has been completed, which will provide systemic base for decision making in the field of scientific and rational conservation and wise use of wetlands;

Fifthly, Construction and management of wetland nature reserves has been strengthened, and by June 2002 total of 353 wetland nature reserves have been established with an area of protected natural wetland of 16 million ha. Total of 33 nationally protected waterfowl species have been put into secure protection in these reserves;

Sixthly, international cooperation has been strengthened. So far 21 wetland sites have been designated as the wetlands of international importance with an area of 3.03 million ha. A number of international cooperation projects are under successful implementation;

Seventhly, a large-scale and nation-wide campaign of education and publicity on conservation of wetland and waterbirds has been undertaken, that leads to improved social awareness on wetland awareness.

All these activities indicate that the cause of wetlands in China is going on well and orderly.

Although a great success in the field of wetland conservation and wise use has been achieved, but we realize clearly that China being a developing country with a large population has many constraints in the cause of wetlands conservation especially due to pressure of her needs for development of economy, growing population, overusing of natural resources and limited financial ability. We must harmonize the relationship between economic development and environment protection. In order to further improve wetland conservation and wise use the following measure have to be taken:

  • To raise national awareness on wetland conservation. Education and advocacy must be pertinent with aim to raise people's consciousness on importance of wetland conservation.
  • To implement the National Programme of Wetland Conservation Planning for China. As instructed by State Council, the State Forestry Administration as a focal agency in cooperation with other 10 related sectors has prepared the National Programme of Wetland Conservation Planning for China. After its approval by State Council the programme will be implemented nationally, and all related sectors and governments at all levels have to put wetland conservation into their development plan, thus to raise overall management level of wetland in the country.
  • To establish further wetland nature reserves. Establishment of nature reserves is an important measure of wetland conservation. As a rescue measure a significant number of nature reserves must be established as soon as necessary conditions are in existence. Meanwhile the existing reserves must be managed as appropriate. The nature reserves have to be a demonstration site where wetland conservation, environmental education, eco-tourism and sustainable use have been integrated properly.
  • To strengthen international cooperation. We have to strengthen cooperation and exchange with surrounding countries and related international organizations. It is necessary to raise funds through various channels. Chinese government will continue to implement Ramsar Convention conscientiously. We strongly believe that China is able to protect her wetlands and other natural resources. Being a contracting party Chinese government will show her determination to actively implement Ramsar Convention, and wish to have support and assistance from related international organizations in the field of wetland cause with an aim to raise overall level of wetland conservation and management in China.

May I take the opportunity of forthcoming WWD to express my sincere respect to all worker, researchers and managerial persons, who work in the field of wetland conservation in China on behalf of the State Forestry Administration. I would like also to convey best regards to foreign friends who have made their dedications in conserving wetlands in China. It is my wish that wetland conservation will have more progresses all over the world.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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