A new survey has determined China's wetlands have shrunk nearly 9-percent since 2003, aggravating water scarcity in a country where food production, energy output and industrial activity are already under pressure from water shortages.
A four-year survey by the State Forestry Administration says China has a total of 53.6 million hectares of wetlands.
But that means wetlands covering an area larger than the Netherlands, or twice the size of Beijing, have disappeared since the last survey in 2003.
Zhang Yongli is the deputy head of the State Forestry Administration.
"Experts have proved that the "red line" for wetland protection is 800 million mu, or around 53-million hectors by 2020. We set the "red line" to reverse the trend of land erosion and degradation. It's also an urgent need to promote ecological civilization, making our country a better place to live in and achieving sustainable development."
The lost wetlands have been converted to agricultural use, swallowed by large infrastructure projects, or degraded by climate change.
Wetlands lost to infrastructure projects have increased tenfold during the past decade.
Meanwhile, China's food production, energy output and industrial activity are already under pressure because of water shortages.
So far, there is no national law to protect wetlands, only provincial regulations. Zhang Yongli says such legislation should be made at soon as possible.
"Current regulations and rules have some clauses on wetland protection, but most are in fragments and disorganized, far from meeting the need of our work. Provisions for investigation and supervision of land use, the punishment for lawbreakers and better performance of International conventions are still nearly blank. Thus, a set of practical and binding regulations, specially for wetland protection, is badly needed. "
For the period between 2011 to 2015, China has allocated 12.9 billion yuan to protect its wetlands.
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