China’s coastal ecosystems still unhealthy despite recent progress, official says

Most of China’s marine ecosystems are still in poor health despite recent improvements, and more efforts are needed to restore, protect and monitor coastal waters, an environment ministry official said Thursday.

“Most of the typical marine ecosystems that are monitored remain in a sub-healthy state,” Zhang Zhifeng, deputy director of the marine ecology department of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said in a briefing.

China has warned that rapid, high-intensity development in coastal regions has created immense environmental pressures, with pollution and habitat destruction still not fully contained. It has already undertaken to set up a system to restore large sections of its coastline.

Zhang said China had approved 15 coastal infrastructure projects this year with a total investment of 66.9 billion yuan ($9.98 billion). It also issued 378 permits authorizing companies to dump waste at sea.

He said China’s marine biodiversity had improved in recent years, with nearly 30% of coastal waters and 37% of the country’s mainland coastline now part of a “red line” scheme to protect them from degradation.

China launched the “red line of ecological protection” system in 2011, with each region required to map natural forests, rivers, wetlands and other vulnerable ecosystems that need to be protected from development.

About 25% of China’s territory is now covered by the scheme, but it is under pressure to join other countries in pledging to protect at least 30% of its land and sea by 2030.

The target was to be discussed during negotiations for a new post-2020 global biodiversity pact. The final leg of the talks was originally scheduled to take place in Kunming, southeast China, but has now moved to Montreal amid fears China’s strict COVID measures could disrupt the talks.