China, in 1992, became a party to the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental agreement dedicated to the conservation and rational use of wetland ecosystems.
Since then, China has established a legal framework for wetlands conservation and issued a series of policies to increase protection. Over the past decade, China has added or restored more than 800,000 hectares of wetlands, according to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The past decade was characterized by a comprehensive approach toward wetlands conservation in China. The central government allocated 16.9 billion yuan (about 2.5 billion U.S. dollars) for wetland conservation and undertook over 3,400 protection projects in that period. The country’s first specialized law on wetland protection took effect in June 2022.
China will continue to attach great importance to wetland protection as China’s urbanization rate surpasses 60 percent. Thus, Wuhan, a megacity of more than 13 million permanent residents, is a prime example. Wuhan is home to 166 lakes, but the city’s lake areas had shrunk considerably last century, encroached first by drought and land reclamation for farming and then by real estate development. The trend reversed after the city government passed a slew of legislation and policies to protect wetlands in the 2000s, eventually stabilizing the city’s lake area even amid rapid economic growth. Pollution bans and ecological restoration projects restored the water quality. In the 3,367-hectare East Lake, authorities sealed all sewage inlets and planted pollutant-purifying aquatic plants to create 220 hectares of “underwater forest.” Boasting clear water and flocks of waterfowl, the lake is now a popular jogging and sightseeing site among residents.
Some other Chinese cities developed strategies to coexist with smaller wetlands. In Liangping District of Chongqing in southwest China, farmers grew rice, vegetables, lotus, fish, and shrimps in small and micro wetlands, including the district’s many ponds and rice paddies.
Organic agriculture in such mini wetlands helped reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides while boosting agricultural output. The scenic views also boosted ecological tourism to raise farmers’ incomes.