WWF in wetland action campaign with China's university students

24/05/2002

University students nationwide participate in WWF campaign to save China's wetlands

Beijing, China - WWF has launched its second annual Wetland Ambassadors Action campaign, calling for university students across China to submit proposals for raising awareness amongst government officials, farmers and other stakeholders on the importance and benefits of conserving China's rivers and lakes.

The primary goal of the project, supported by WWF, the Ramsar Convention Implementing Office of the State Forestry Bureau (SFA), and China Youth Daily, is to reach out to stakeholders living in or around one of China's 21 Ramsar Sites to increase their support for wetland conservation and sustainable use issues. The project involves university students to implement the campaign. The campaign also seeks to promote the concept of conservation responsibility in universities and introduce the concept of Ramsar Sites to the general public.

Ramsar is an inter-governmental treaty on wetland conservation that aims to protect the world's wetlands. China currently has 21 Ramsar Sites, totaling an area of 3.03 million ha in 12 provinces.

The campaign, whose theme is 'Realizing Ramsar,' calls for university students to become 'ambassadors' who will serve as a bridge between grassroots conservation groups, governmental organizations, and the public. To become an ambassador, university groups must submit a proposal to WWF detailing a plan on how to promote the importance and benefits of conserving Ramsar Sites in their native province. Proposals are due by May 31, 2002.

Ten proposals will be selected on July 8, 2002 during a live, on-line evaluation carried out by a group of experts from the government's Wetland Conservation office, Wetlands International, and WWF. The judging panel in Beijing will ask student groups in cities across China questions about their proposals and receive immediate responses.

Groups whose proposals are selected will receive 5000RMB to implement their campaign. Selected participants will receive on-line training in the beginning of July on key wetland issues and relevant ecological knowledge in order to give them a clear understanding of the conservation messages they will convey.

The groups will first take part in a field survey in the Ramsar Site in their native province. They will then implement their proposed campaign in the field. Results will be reported back to WWF, SFA, and the Ramsar Convention Bureau.

WWF conducted a similar campaign last year, with the theme "Bring Knowledge Back Home." Twenty proposals were selected and judged on-line and over 100,000 people logged on to 'view' the evaluations.

One of the selected groups, the Changsha Electricity University, held a wetland products and technology exhibition in Xiangyin, a village on the edge of Lake Dongting. Students displayed plant and animal products that came from sustainably managed wetlands, and invited local agricultural scientists to give presentations. Hundreds of local villagers attended and learned about alternative agriculture production after wetland restoration.

More than 1000 students were involved in the campaign, with 200 students actually taking the campaign into the towns and villages of the Central Yangtze. There the ambassadors interviewed or directly communicated with 100,000 local people. The campaign was widely covered in Chinese newspapers and websites.

With one-fifth of the world's population, conservation of wetlands in China is crucial. China is ranked fourth in the world in wetlands surface (65.9 million ha - 10% of the world's wetland areas), yet it ranks 109th in the world in fresh water per capita. Population growth and rapid economic development have resulted in a large number of wetlands in Eastern China being converted to farmlands, and growing pressure on those wetlands that still survive.

In February 2002, WWF awarded the Chinese government the 'Gift to the Earth' award for its designation of 14 new Ramsar Sites in China and for its commitment over the next 10 years to invest one billion USD in setting up 160 new wetland protected areas, including watershed management of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Mekong rivers.

China's designation of 3.03 million ha of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention will protect the habitat of more than 100 species of migratory birds, most of them endangered or threatened. It will preserve the home of nearly one thousand species of fish, a third of which is endemic, and safeguard the environment of a wide range of other wildlife, such as dolphins, seals and turtles.

Contacts and more information:
Zhang Yifei, Yangtze Program Communications Assistant, WWF China Programme. Tel: 86-10-6595 9891 ext 237. Fax: 86-10-6591 5731. Email: yfzhang@wwfchina.org

Websites:
Ramsar Convention: http://www.ramsar.org/profiles_china.htm
WWF China's Freshwater and Marine program: http://www.wwfchina.org/english/loca.php?loca=6
Map of China's Ramsar Sites: http://www.wwfchina.org/english/downloads/ramsarsites-en.jpg
WWF-China Programme Office website: http://www.wwfchina.org

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