China adopted a new national law Friday for protecting wetlands. Under the new framework, land reclamation and drainage on wetlands will be generally prohibited, as well as the permanent blockage of water sources to natural wetlands.
Other prohibited activities include the pollution of wetlands through the discharge of industrial or sewage wastewater and through excessive fertilization or pesticide use. The law will impose per-square-meter fines for unauthorized construction projects on important national wetlands and for construction projects that fail to restore damaged wetlands within a reasonable timeframe.
The Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources and State Forestry and Grassland Administration will conduct and release regular wetland resource surveys and evaluations through a unified data-sharing system and, along with other government departments, are tasked to formulate national standards for wetland classification and monitoring.
Local-level governments are to partake in the promotion of wetlands conservation by encouraging local residents to participate in wetlands management and by taking measures to prevent destruction to wetlands and their biodiversity through human activities like tourism, farming and shipping. The public’s awareness of the wetland protection activities will be enhanced by incorporating information on it into educational curricula and the news media.
10 percent of the world’s wetlands are located in China, covering 3.8 percent of the nation’s mainland territory and, per the WWF, making it the country with the fourth-most largest wetland surface. According to the 2021 Global Wetland Outlook, published by the Convention on Wetlands (a global inter-governmental treaty on wetlands conservation), the extent of global wetlands has decreased by 35 percent between 1970 and 2015. This is due to land conversion, primarily for agriculture.
The law adds to the Chinese government’s earlier policies for conserving wetlands: the 2000 National Wetland Conservation Action Plan and the 2003 National Wetland Conservation Program (2002–2030).
The new law will come into force June.