-- China has basically completed drawing up ecological conservation red lines nationwide to identify the country's crucial ecological zones and enforce strict protection in those areas.
-- No less than 25 percent of the country's land area has been demarcated within the red lines, covering zones that are critical in environmental function, ecologically sensitive and vulnerable, and vital for biodiversity.
-- Environmental experts and officials have commended the red-line system as a creative and scientific model for maintaining biodiversity.
CHANGSHA, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Staff members of the mountainous Gaowangjie National Nature Reserve in central China's Hunan Province were surprised to find that wildlife that disappeared long ago, such as the Elliot's pheasants, had recently returned.
Zhang Zhilin, deputy head of the reserve administration, said that living conditions of rare and endangered species have seen notable improvements since the reserve was made part of an ecological protection red-line zone in 2018, resulting in a more harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.
In July, China announced that it had basically completed drawing up ecological conservation red lines nationwide to identify the country's crucial ecological zones and enforce strict protection in those areas.
No less than 25 percent of the country's land area has been demarcated within the red lines, covering zones that are critical in environmental function, ecologically sensitive and vulnerable, and vital for biodiversity, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.
Photo taken on April 20, 2021 shows Tibetan antelopes in the Sanjiangyuan (Three-River-Source) area, home to the headwaters of three major rivers -- the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Lancang River (known as the Mekong River after it flows out of China), in northwest China's Qinghai Province. (Xinhua/Wu Gang)
The red lines are now identified as lifelines for ensuring China's ecological security, according to a national guideline in 2017.
In the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, more than half of the region's total area has been demarcated within the red lines, including grasslands, forests, and wetlands. Projects that break the ecological balance or exceed the capacities of the environment and resources will be banned, according to the regional natural resources authorities.
While in the southwestern Yunnan Province, which will host the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in October, almost one third of its land area has been put under the protection of the red lines.
TRAIL-BLAZING SOLUTION TO BIODIVERSITY PROTECTION
Environmental experts and officials have commended the red-line system as a creative and scientific model for maintaining biodiversity.
"There are not many other places I can think of that have a similarly sophisticated science-based approach to identifying and implementing what's called the red-lining policy here," said Guido Schmidt-Traub, former executive director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network in an interview in late 2019.
Aerial photo taken on Jan. 10, 2021 shows the scenery of Yamzbog Yumco Lake in Shannan, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Sun Fei)
Zhou Jinfeng, vice chairman and secretary-general of China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, said the system is a great innovation compared with the "protected area" system established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and widely used around the world, as those areas are often not large enough and costly to manage.
"After the ecological red-line zones are designated, any urban planning and rural development in the zones should give way to the ecological preservation," said Zhou. "The system will play a vital role in advancing biodiversity conservation."
Gao Jixi, director of Center for Satellite Application on Ecology and Environment of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said that most countries designate 10 percent to 20 percent of their land as "protected areas," which is insufficient to stop the continuing nature loss globally or meet the biodiversity conservation objectives proposed by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
China's red-line approach, however, is based on a technical assessment of the benefits to both nature and people and aims to include areas both sparsely and heavily populated, thus creating the ability to achieve large-scale and holistic protection of species and habitats, noted Gao.
For example, around the Yangtze River Delta, a booming city cluster, nearly 29,000 square km of land, or around 12 percent of the region, falls in the red-line zones, including important wetland forests and grassland, according to Gao.
Gao said it is important to balance ecological preservation and economic development in conjunction with designating red-line zones, and while development is currently crucial, preservation must be prioritized to sustain growth.
He noted that the delineation of the red lines is a dynamic process. In the future when economic efficiency improves and less natural space is needed, the area of red-line zones will continue to expand.
Aerial photo taken on July 26, 2021 shows a herd of cattle on the Wulanmaodu pasture in Horqin Right Wing Front Banner, Hinggan League, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Bei He)
Erik Solheim, former executive director of UN Environment Programme, said the red-line strategy is "enormous, significant and has a huge potential to help the world solve the problem that we need to live in harmony with nature."
Schmidt-Traub shared a similar view, saying that global scientists should "investigate this study and its implementation" and then "really consider how this could be applied in other countries."
Besides the red-line strategy, China has also adopted a raft of protection rules and mechanisms, such as the eco-compensation mechanism, chiefs of rivers, lakes and forests, and national parks, which jointly serve environmental protection drive while guaranteeing the dividends to locals.
According to Zhou, many foreign experts and governments showed interest in the red-line strategy at international conferences.
"The Chinese approach provides inspirations for other countries, especially for those actively exploring new and more effective conservation models," he said.
(Video reporter: Zhang Yujie Video editor: Zhang Yucheng) ■