During a historic visit to Wetlands International’s Head Office in the Netherlands on May 24, this year (2016), the State Forestry Administration (SFA) of the People’s Republic of China strengthened international collaboration for wetland conservation. The delegation was led by the State Forest Administration’s Vice-Minister, Mr Chen Fengxue. During the visit he signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Wetlands International’s CEO, Jane Madgwick and met the Chair of Wetlands International, André van der Zande.
The discussions focused on how SFA and Wetlands International can collaborate in the coming years, for example on implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in China, management and restoration of peat lands for climate mitigation and adaptation, and on the conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems of outstanding importance for waterbirds, including through international collaboration to conserve Yellow Sea wetlands.
Through the discussions commitments for further collaborations were also reached, including a joint-workshop on river basin management and “room for the river” approaches, further programmes on peat lands, and technical exchange between the Wadden Sea and the Yellow Sea. Most importantly, the meeting was an opportunity to strengthen the friendship.
CEO, Jane Madgwick said: “The value of wetlands for people and nature are better recognised in China than in most countries. But with rapid growth and development, wetlands have come under great pressure. We are keen to share knowledge and collaborate with SFA and other ministries in China to find ways to safeguard and restore wetlands as a cornerstone of sustainable development.”
China has enormous wetland wealth and has already included almost 18 million hectares of wetlands in nature reserves. Recognising that challenges linked to urbanisation, flood management, water scarcity, desertification, climate change and human health all connect to the status of China’s rivers and wetlands, the SFA, the focal agency for wetlands, developed a National Wetlands Conservation Action Plan with 17 other ministries to guide measures for wetlands involving all sectors.
Wetlands International has collaborated with SFA since the 1990s, an office was established in Beijing in 1996 and the government of the People’s Republic of China became a member of Wetlands International in 2000. In particular the collaboration has resulted in community-based management and rehabilitation of the vast high mountain peat lands of the Ruoergai Marshes on the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau and the peat lands of the Altai Mountains in NW China.
Wetlands International plays an important role in raising awareness about wetland values for people and nature and has supported the development of Wetland Parks in cities across China. Most recently, Wetlands International China organised a major waterbird count in the Yellow Sea wetlands, to highlight the importance of the remaining wetlands for waterbird conservation.