International Symposium on Wetland Protected Area Systems

Dec 6, 2017

Haikou, 6 December -- From December 4th to 6th 2017, the International Symposium on Wetland Protected Area Systems was held in Haikou, aiming to showcase the latest achievements in wetland conservation in China. With active advocacy and support of the Global Environment Fund’s (GEF) project “Strengthen China's Wetland Protection System and Biodiversity Conservation”, the symposium was jointly organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Survey & Planning Institute of State Forestry Administration, the Forestry Department of Hainan Province, the Haikou Municipal Government and the Development and Reform Commission of Hainan Province.

Being one of the most important environments for human sustenance, wetlands are rich and serve as an ecologically diverse home for biodiversity. Together with forests and oceans, they are identified as one of the world’s three most important ecosystems. Unfortunately, natural wetland areas in China have been shrinking at a rapid rate and a high proportion of species within China’s wetlands are listed as endangered. China's wetland conservation system is designed to raise awareness globally while promoting sustainable development of the national system domestically. The conference provided a platform for attendees to share their successful experiences in building wetland protection systems both at home and abroad and to discuss useful strategies for wetland conservation.

“Wetland conservation supports more than half of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Mr. Carsten Germer, the Assistant Country Director of UNDP China, while delivering a speech in the opening ceremony, adding that China has accumulated tremendous experiences which China is willing to share through South-South collaborations.

Participants included more than 260 experts and administrators from the Survey & Planning Institute of State Forestry Administration, the Forestry Department of Hainan Province, the Haikou Municipal Government, the Development and Reform Commission of Hainan Province, domestic and foreign NGOs, research institutes and wetland protection agencies. Other honored guests included Ma Guangren, the deputy director of National Forest Fire Prevention Command; Zhou Xu Mei, the director of Forestry Department of Hainan Province; Ni Qiang, the mayor of Haikou’s Municipal Government; and Chen Yiyu, the Academician from Chinese Academy of Sciences. Chen Yiyu reviewed the current situation of the resources, work products and effectiveness of wetlands in China.

During the three-day conference, seven general assembly reports and 39 session reports were delivered. Wetland experts shared their experiences in wetland protection policies and protective systems both home and abroad, and discussed the models, experience and technologies of wetland restoration as well as some successful cases in practicing the sustainable use of wetlands. Experts stressed that currently the wetlands in China face serious problems such as area reduction, functional deterioration and a decline of biodiversity. At present, problems such as a lack of legislation and funds, weak support in science and technology as well as inadequate management restrict the process of wetland conservation. Therefore, the goal of stabilizing the wetland areas to 800 million mu by 2020 remains distant.

In September 2017, Haikou was nominated as the International Wetland City. With a wetland area of 436,000 mu and the wetland rate of 12.71%, Haikou has the largest mangrove wetland with the most species in China, and is also the only tropical volcanic lava wetland in the country. It is reported that the Haikou municipal government has given priority to wetland conservation, promoting a culture of conservation, and has promulgated and implemented a series of laws and regulations including the "Resolution on the Strengthening of Management and Protection of Wetlands". The government has made an overall plan for wetland conservation and restoration in order to increase the wetland conservation rate to more than 50% by 2020.

Since 2013, the "Enhancing the Effectiveness of Hainan Wetland Conservation Network Management and Protecting Global Biodiversity" project has been jointly implemented by UNDP, the Global Environment Fund (GEF), Forestry Department of Hainan Province, and Dongzhaigang Nature Reserve. Through legislation and environmental improvement, protected areas were enlarged, while the effectiveness of management was enhanced. These projects will bring benefits to economic development, the local ecological system and people's livelihoods in Hainan, and the benefits are already remarkable: the area of Dongzhaigang mangrove reserve has increased from 50,000 acres to 120,000 acres, with a 4,500-acre expansion of mangrove forests. The construction of a number of wetland parks including the Wuyuan River is also speeding up; in addition, Haikou was nominated as one of the first internationally accredited wetland cities.

In the future, UNDP will continue to promote the global importance for the conservation of biodiversity by sustaining a good partnership with local governments and other partners. By actively seeking innovative technologies in the field of wetland conservation, we hope to address existing and emerging threats to these areas of significant biodiversity and essential ecosystem services, making long-term contributions to the sustainable development of the local environment and its people.

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