Six Chinese cities recognised among world's first wetland towns

Six Chinese cities recognised among world's first wetland towns

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (BUSINESS WIRE via AP) — Six Chinese cities were awarded the Wetland City Accreditation at the 13th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) in Dubai, in appreciation of their “exceptional steps to safeguard their urban wetlands”.

Changde, Changshu, Dongying, Haerbin, Haikou and Yinchuan were the six, with cities in France, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Tunisia rounding out the full complement of 18.

According to the Ramsar secretariat, these pioneer cities will serve as examples and inspire deliberate actions for other cities towards sustainable urbanisation.

Wetland City Accreditation was introduced this year by the Ramsar Convention — an intergovernmental treaty — to encourage cities that are close to and depend on wetlands, and to establish a positive relationship with wetlands through increased awareness and consideration of them in the local planning and decision-making processes.

Hosted by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and sponsored by Dubai Municipality, COP13 is a platform for member states to plan wetlands policy and discuss their progress for the next three years, vote on 26 draft resolutions, and discuss a range of ongoing and emerging environmental issues.

“The rapid decline of wetlands has received the attention of governments around the world and I would like to commend China's efforts through wetland conservation and restoration projects,” said Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, minister of Climate Change and Environment.

“As a pioneer in the region for environmental efforts, the UAE is honoured to host COP13 and use the event as a platform to drive international cooperation to protect these valuable ecosystems that have an impact on our lives, society and our future,” he continued.

Ma Guangren, secretary general of the China Wetland Conservation Association, who received a Merit Award at COP13 for his significant contributions for wetlands conservation in China and Asia, said the Chinese Government has introduced many new laws and regulations for the protection of the country's wetlands in the past decade, under the guidance of the Ramsar Convention.

He noted however, that challenges do remain, and pointed specifically at “the lack of scientific and technological support, and insufficient public awareness of the significance of wetlands”.

“I believe that international cooperation and the sharing of best practices is important for us to draw on the wisdom and experience of others around the world. It is a great honour for me to receive this award in recognition of the work that has gone into the protection and wise use of wetlands and its resources,” he said.

Ma has contributed to the establishment of wetland conservation regulations, investigation and monitoring, project planning, publicity and education and an international cooperation system. He persuaded the Central Government of China to invest US$1.3 billion (9 billion Chinese yuan) to implement national wetland conservation and restoration projects. Ma also helped set up the National Ramsar Implementation Committee, and the China Wetland Conservation Association, and has developed networks for the Conservation of the Yangtze River, Yellow River and coastal wetlands, as well as initiated various environmental and public awareness education activities.

The total wetlands area in China is 53,602,600 hectares, comprising marine/coastal wetlands, riverine wetlands, lake wetlands, marshy wetlands and human-made wetlands. China joined the Ramsar Convention in 1992, and has since designated 57 Wetlands of International Importance covering more than 6.9 million hectares. These sites provide a range of critical benefits and services to people and nature. They are biodiversity hotspots and provide habitat for a wide range of endemic and threatened species, including critically endangered species such as the Chinese pangolin, the Chinese sturgeon, and birds such as Baer's pochard, the Siberian crane and the yellow-breasted bunting. They also serve as wintering, breeding and resting sites for a variety of migratory birds.

The recently launched Global Wetlands Outlook (GWO) by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands highlights that the world's wetlands are declining rapidly, with 35 per cent losses since 1970. Authors of the report also stressed the need for immediate action, lest there be serious repercussions for the future. Findings from the GWO will inform discussions and decisions at COP13.

The other world cities to be given the Wetland City Accreditation were Amiens, Courteranges, Pont-Audemer and Saint-Omer in France; Tata in Hungary; Republic of Korea's Changnyeong, Inje, Jeju and Suncheon; Mitsinjo in Madagascar; Colombo in Sri Lanka and Ghar el Melh in Tunisia.

The UAE, meanwhile, which is situated in one of the most arid regions in the world, has been a party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands since 2007, and has designated seven wetland sites with a surface area of 34,978 hectares onto the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites). It includes marshes, vast tidal flats, fresh water aquifers, mangroves and coral reefs.

The 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, under the theme of 'Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future' wrapped up on Monday, nine days after its start on October 21.

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