by Xinhua writers Xuan Liqi and Li Linhai
XINING, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Qinghai Province in northwest China, dubbed "the water tower of China," is making headway in protecting its rich wetland resources through comprehensive efforts, with its wetland area and wildlife both increasing.
Home to the Sanjiangyuan (Three-River-Source) National Park, the plateau province ranks first in the country in wetland areas. The Sanjiangyuan area is home to the headwaters of the Yangtze River, China's longest; the Yellow River, the second-longest in the country, and the Lancang River (knowns as Mekong River after it flows out of China).
Tuesday marks this year's World Wetlands Day. Over the years, China has stepped up efforts in ecological conservation, with significant progress made in protecting and expanding wetlands through the construction of national parks, restoration of shrinking wetlands and other measures.
Currently, Qinghai has 19 national wetland parks and 32 provincial-level key wetlands, said Ma Jianhai, an official with the provincial forestry and grassland bureau.
Over the past five years, the province has rolled out 111 ecological restoration projects with an investment of 580 million yuan (about 89.67 million U.S. dollars). "Through the conservation measures, a number of degraded wetlands have been restored, while the water conservation capacity of the wetlands and headwaters on the plateau has also improved," Ma added.
Tseringtamdro, a 24-year-old herdsman in the province's Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, followed his father's footsteps and became a wildlife ranger in the Longbao nature reserve in 2018.
"In summer, a number of birds nest and settle in the reserve thanks to the large area of wetlands there," he said. Now the reserve is home to five species of birds under the country's first-class protection including black-necked cranes and black storks.
In 2015, Qinghai took the lead in the nation to launch the ecological protection system for wetlands, employing 963 rangers to protect the wetlands in 22 counties.
"We patrol for 20 days each month," said Qi Tongliang, a 55-year-old ranger in the Nanmenxia wetland park, which is located in Huzhu Tu Autonomous County in the province. "We also record the number of wild birds spotted during the patrol."
The wetland park is the county's second-largest water source, ensuring safe drinking water for more than 100,000 people, said Cao Xuantai, director of the park's protection center.
In 2014, Qinghai's capital Xining launched an ecological restoration program in its Beichuan River national wetland park. It adopted a slew of measures including a pipe network project for rainwater and sewage collection to minimize river pollution. Now the park is not only home to various species of wild birds but also plays an important role in soil erosion control, flood storage, and drought prevention.
NATIONWIDE WETLAND PROTECTION
China's wetland area increased by more than 200,000 hectares over the past five years, official data showed. The central fiscal allocated 9.87 billion yuan for wetland protection and launched more than 2,000 wetland protection and restoration projects during the period.
China has also established a national wetland protection system for tiered management of wetlands nationwide. From 2016 to 2020, the country added 201 national wetland parks, bringing the total to 899.
In January, a draft law on wetland protection was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, for the first review.
The special legislation on wetland protection is conducive to the establishment of a complete legal system to guarantee the strengthening of wetland protection and restoration, experts said.
A number of provinces have unveiled plans on wetland protection. For example, central China's Henan Province will build 27 new wetland parks in an effort to protect and restore the wetlands in the province, the provincial forestry bureau announced recently.
Due to climate change, the wetland protection also needs technological breakthroughs besides legal support, said Mao Xufeng, a professor at Qinghai Normal University. Enditem