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WWF's 5-year plan for China

PROTECTING the Yangtze River basin, increasing the population of wild tigers in China and tackling climate change are the top three tasks the World Wide Fund for Nature wants to achieve in the next five years in cooperation with its partners in China, WWF officials said at a forum at the World Expo.

The world's largest non-governmental environmental protection organization was celebrating 30 years in China yesterday, World Environment Day.

"Rapid economic growth in China has a high cost - the environment, and our task is to help people live in harmony with nature," said James Leape, director general of the organization.

Since 1980, the WWF's programs have expanded from working with a single species - the giant panda - to the protection of biodiversity and sustainable development across the country, including projects involving areas along the Heilongjiang River, the Yellow Sea, the Yangtze River basin and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

It has helped the Chinese government establish more than 60 giant panda nature reserves and the launch of China's first low carbon cities - Baoding, in north China's Hebei Province, and Shanghai.

WWF has also been instrumental in bringing the carbon footprint concept to China and helped establish the Yangtze River Wetland Conservation Network, a platform that brings government, research groups and public together to protect one of the world's largest and most important wetland ecosystems.

It also introduced Earth Hour, its successful campaign to raise public awareness of the need to protect the environment.

"Our future plans are to enhance the protection of forests, lakes and species in the Yangtze River basin, which has 40 percent of the nation's fresh water and 40 percent of its GDP," said Dermot O'Gorman, country representative of WWF China.

He added: "It is the Year of Tiger. But there are less than 20 wild tigers in the northeast of China and we want to increase its number by fivefold in the future decade.

"We will also work with the Chinese government to raise public awareness of environmental protection and help curb carbon dioxide emissions while the economy grows."

Chen Shuxian, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration, told the forum that forest coverage in China had grown from 12 percent in 1981 to the current 20.36 percent and 2,012 natural protection zones established by the forestry authorities covered 85 percent of wild animal species and 65 percent of higher plant species in China, offering an ideal habitat for some 300 state protected wild animals and more than 130 precious trees.

He said China will realize 23 percent of forest coverage by 2020 and generally improve the ecological problems in the nation and eventually solve ecological problems by 2050 with over 26 percent of forest cover.

People who benefited from WWF's alternative livelihood initiatives also took part in yesterday's forum to share their experiences of programs that the WWF launched to improve people's quality of life while still protecting the environment.

These included pepper and herb planting, beekeeping, ecotourism, organic agriculture and fisheries in Yangtze communities. WWF officials said these activities were effective ways of achieving both conservation and poverty alleviation across the region.


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