The 1st China Wetlands Cultural Festival

12/11/0009

On Monday 2 November 2009, the 1st China Wetlands Cultural Festival, with the theme of ‘Wetlands and Culture’, was launched in Hangzhou City with much fanfare. The event was organised by the State Forestry Administration and the Zhejiang Provincial Forestry Dept, whilst being sponsored by the Hangzhou City government. The Festival consisted of a number of events, including the opening of the 3rd International Wetlands Forum; the opening of the new National Wetland Museum of China adjacent to China’s 37th and newest Ramsar site, the Xixi Wetland Park; and a ceremony to hand over the Ramsar site certificate to the representative of the Hangzhou City government. All of these events were attended by high level officials from central government, such as Ms. Zhang Meiying (Vice-Chairman, 11th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) and Mr. Jia Zhibang (Director, State Forestry Administration). Also present at these events, were officials from the Zhejiang Provincial governments, Hangzhou City government, representatives from the Provincial Forestry Departments across China, as well as academics and other national and international wetland experts.

Work on the design and construction of the three storey National Wetland Museum of China began in 2006 and the completed building is now divided into a ‘Wetlands and Human Hall’, the ‘China Hall’, and the ‘Xixi Hall’, as well as having an observation tower, lecture hall, 4D cinema and science centre. The displays use a range of interpretation tools, from dioramas to interactive touch-screen displays. Entrance will be free for visitors and is expected to make a significant contribution to raising awareness in China of the importance of wetlands and wetland cultures, as well as the need for their conservation.

The Festival’s theme of ‘Wetlands and Culture’ was also used as the theme for the International Wetland Forum. The 13 speakers at the Forum gave a range of presentation on the important linkages between wetlands and culture from international and national perspectives. Both Dr. Huang Yu (Beijing Normal University) and Dr. Wang Li-ming (WWF China Programme Office) gave accounts of how water and wetlands has played an important part in traditional Chinese culture, especially in the arts. Prof. Yu Kong-jian (Beijing University) continued this theme but from the perspective of landscape architecture of how historically, Chinese towns and cities had regarded the waters and wetlands around them as ‘scared landscapes’ and were designed and built so as to be able to adapt, and make best use of these wetlands, e.g. for flood prevention, minimizing the impacts of drought, and for providing navigation. However, there are impacts on the cultural value of wetlands worldwide, and Tom Dahmer (Ecosystems Ltd.) presented an example of how the culture of the traditional fishing communities in the Amur River Basin was being affected by declining fish catches caused mainly by pollution of the rivers.

On the international front, Martin Spray (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) described how the WWT’s wetland centres across the United Kingdom have been designed and managed to emphasize the close relationship between the wetlands and the traditional culture of the area where they are situated. Lew Young (Ramsar Secretariat) made a presentation on the relationship between wetlands and culture from the perspective of the Ramsar Convention, and he gave examples of how the cultural value of various Ramsar sites from across Asia were being maintained through collaborative management. Other additional speakers gave presentations on a range of topics, such as the diversity and importance of wetlands in China; the biodiversity of wetlands; and wetlands and livelihood.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Ma Guangrun (State Forestry Administration) concluded that the forum had been important in providing a global perspective for China in order to continue the important work of environmental protection. He also stressed that the government will continue their work of promoting the concept of wetland values and culture, and to integrate environmental protection and economic development. 

Photographs by Lew Young

Mr. Zheng Rong-sheng (centre), Secretary of Xihu District and General Director of  the Xixi Wetland Management Committee, receiving the Xixi Wetland Park Ramsar site certificate from Lew Young (right), Senior Regional Advisor – Asia/Oceania, Ramsar Secretariat.

3rd International Wetlands Forum in progress

Opening ceremony for the National Wetland Museum of China

Entrance to the Museum

Interactive displays explaining the wetlands of China

Diorama showing the typical ecosystem associated with China’s high altitude wetlands

Scenery inside the Xixi wetlands

Small water channel inside the Xixi wetlands

Local villagers earn their living by taking visitors into the wetlands

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