The Yellow River Wetland Park area in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was once a place local residents avoided, as raw sewage from nearby drains caused foul odors.
Now, the park is now not only a hot destination for locals looking to take a stroll, but it also attracts many migratory birds.
The Yinchuan wetland park is just a microcosm of the achievements China has made in wetland conservation, thanks to the importance that central authorities have attached to the issue.
During a 2020 inspection tour in Zhejiang province, President Xi Jinping visited the Xixi National Wetland Park — the country's first such facility — in Hangzhou, the provincial capital. In addition to ordering measures to make the park a green space for the public, Xi said tourism development should not take place at the expense of the environment.
In his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi stressed, "We must remember to maintain harmony between humanity and nature when planning our development."
Wu Zhimin, an official with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said the conditions in China's wetland areas have consistently improved over the past three decades.
Since the introduction of its national wetland protection plan (2002-30), the central government has allocated 19.8 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) for wetland conservation via three five-year plans, and more than 4,100 projects have been launched, he said.
Wu said comprehensive protection measures were rolled out from 2016 to last year after the government assessed conditions in the country's wetland areas and acted quickly to remediate those that were seriously damaged.
According to the administration, there are now 1,600 wetland parks and 600 wetland nature reserves nationwide, while 64 wetland areas have been designated as being of international importance.
"China has established a system for wetland protection and management," said Wu, adding that the proportion of protected wetland nationwide now is 52.7 percent.
With the Wetland Protection Law coming into effect on June 1, the country's wetland conservation efforts have entered a new era, Wu said. The administration will introduce new regulations, mechanisms and policies, and guide regions nationwide to draft or revise rules as part of its efforts to raise the protection rate to 55 percent by 2025.
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