BEIJING, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Beijing plans to restore or create 2,200 hectares of wetlands this year, as part of China's continued efforts in wetland protection.
In 2017, the city restored more than 1,700 hectares of wetlands and created some 680 hectares, bringing the new and restored wetland area to 8,000 hectares over the past five years, according to Beijing's municipal gardening and greening bureau.
Beijing has six wetland nature reserves, with a total area of more than 20,000 hectares, in addition to 10 state- or city-level wetland parks.
Known as the "kidneys of Earth," wetlands play a crucial role in water purification, flood control, and maintaining bio-diversity.
Beijing's wetlands, covering 3 percent of the city's area, are home to nearly 50 percent of the plants and three quarters of the wild animals in the city.
The capital will begin a new phase of afforestation, aimed at adding over 66,700 of forests, greenbelts, and wetlands by 2022.
Wetlands are a key part in China's environmental protection, as authorities eye a "Beautiful China," which was incorporated into the country's two-stage development plan for the building of a great modern socialist country, according to the report delivered at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October.
Data announced by the State Forestry Administration on Friday, the World Wetlands Day, showed that China has 602 wetland nature reserves and 57 wetlands of "international significance."
In 2017, 84 new national wetland parks were approved, bringing the total to 258. An additional 65 national wetland parks were put in trial operation last year, bringing the number of such parks in the pilot stage to 898, according to the administration.
From 2011 to 2015, China spent nearly 7 billion yuan (1.1 billion U.S. dollars) on wetland restoration projects.
The efforts have benefited both people and nature.
In Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, a 310-hectare wetland park, transformed from a once filthy pond, opened last year.
"When I moved here five years ago, it was littered with trash and the pond smelt bad," said Yang Shuang, who lives around the park. "But now, the prices of homes here have soared."
In Momoge Wetland, the largest wetland in Jilin, the number of bird species has grown by 50 percent from 1981, when the nature reserve was founded, thanks to conservation efforts.
The number of white cranes visiting the wetland annually rose from some 500 in 2000 to over 3,800 in 2015.
A 2016-2020 plan set a bottom line for China's area of wetlands at 53 million hectares by 2020, including 140,000 hectares restored and 200,000 hectares created during the period.