Strategy report for ecosystem management in the People’s Republic of China’s experience
Ecological protection problems in the People’s Republic of China In recent years, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has strengthened ecological protection and restoration, launched natural forests protection projects by returning farmlands to forest, grassland and lake projects, and built a number of different types of nature reserves and important ecological function reserves. These efforts have resulted in the significant increase of the national forest coverage and notable achievements in desertification prevention and soil erosion control in major river basins (Chinese State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) 2005). Despite these efforts for ecological environmental improvement in the PRC, ecological protection in the country still has a long way to go, with only one-third of the ecological environment of the national territory in good condition and one-third in a severe state (SEPA 2006). The trend of ecological deterioration in some regions has not been effectively curbed, thus the ecological problems therein are still serious. Local ecological problems have eased up, but regional and river-basin ecological damages have worsened. While previous ecological problems have lessened, new ecological problems have emerged. Also, even if there was slight improvement in artificial ecological environment, there was however accelerated degradation in the primary ecological environment. And although individual ecological problems have been controlled to some extent, systematic ecological problems have become more prominent, with dominant ecological problems transforming into hidden ecological problems. Viewed as a whole, the situation of the ecological environment in the PRC is not very optimistic, with the transformation of ecosystem structural damages into functional disorders, intensification of ecological degradation and disasters, and the continuous decline of ecosystem service functions. Ecological problems have become more complex while the ecosystems have continuously become unstable (SEPA 2005). In the PRC, the regions with fragile ecological environment cover more than 60 percent of the land area. The areas, where soil erosion occurs, account for 37.1 percent of the total land area, with annual soil loss of five billion tons. On the other hand, 90 percent of the natural grasslands have degraded in varying
degrees, with annual land desertification rate of 2,460 km2. Wetlands have annually shrunk and disappeared, with large areas like the mangrove wetlands in Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi dropping from 50,000 hectares (ha) to 14,000 ha over the past 20 years. Meanwhile, 90 percent of urban surface waters have been polluted. The per capita arable land area is estimated at merely 1.4 mǔ,1 which is only 40 percent of the world average level. Furthermore, polluted farmlands make up 10 percent of the arable land area, which is reduced at an annual rate of over ten million mǔ due to urbanization and industrialization. Indeed, the rapid economic development has brought great pressure on the ecological environment such that national and regional ecological disasters and environmental pollution events have occurred more frequently since the 1990s (SEPA 2002 and 2006; Du Qinglin 2006; Liu Jiang 2002; The Program Team of Chinese Sustainable Forestry Development 2002).