COP14 on wetlands begins; draft resolution for international mangrove centre in China on agenda

Experts in India have expressed surprise at China, a temperate country, offering to host an international mangrove centre 

By Rajat Ghai
Published: Saturday 05 November 2022
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses COP14 at Wuhan. Photo: @RamsarConv / Twitter
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses COP14 at Wuhan. Photo: @RamsarConv / Twitter Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses COP14 at Wuhan. Photo: @RamsarConv / Twitter

The 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP14) to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands began November 5, 2022, to discuss the state of wetlands globally. Among the items on the agenda is a draft resolution by China to host an international mangrove centre. 

The event is being held in two different venues: Wuhan in China and Geneva in Switzerland from November 5-13. Items on the agenda include waterbird population estimates, Ramsar Convention criteria, lists of wetlands of international importance and conservation of small wetlands among others.

‘The draft resolution on establishment of the International Mangrove Center in the framework of the Ramsar Convention’ has been submitted by China and is cosponsored by Cambodia and Madagascar. 

The resolution says:

The Conference of the Contracting Parties welcomes China to host an International Mangrove Center, which will serve as the Secretariat and technical service platform for international mangrove cooperation in the framework of the Ramsar Convention.

The text adds:

(The Conference of the Contracting Parties) invites Parties and relevant stakeholders to join this international mangrove cooperation mechanism for technical exchanges, collaborative research, education and training, and pilot projects on conservation and restoration, to protect mangrove biodiversity and coastal blue carbon ecosystems, enhance mangrove ecosystem services and resilience to climate change.

“I am a little surprised. What would be the take of Bangladesh and India on this because collectively both are home to the largest mangrove forest in the world. Why should such a centre be established in China of all places?” BC Choudhury, trustee, Wildlife Trust of India, told Down To Earth.

“If at all something of this nature is to be established, why should it not be in the tropics? South or southeast Asia or the tropical parts of Latin America and Africa or even northern Australia,” he added.   

Choudhary’s question is valid. China is largely situated in the temperate zone.

The Chinese government, along with three partner organisations, had released Report on China Mangrove Conservation and Restoration Strategy Research Project in 2020.

The document was China’s first research report to comprehensively assess the state of mangroves in the country. It is available on the website of the Global Mangrove Alliance.

“Mangrove forests in China are growing in the northern edge of the global mangrove distribution. Limited by the low temperature, China has less mangrove species compared with other Southeast Asian countries, which are the center of global mangrove distribution,” the report had noted.

It had added that mangroves in China were distributed in the provinces of Hainan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Zhejiang, as well as Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan (which the People’s Republic claims as its province). All these areas are located in the extreme tropical south of the country.

“Mangroves are typically tropical in nature than temperate. There is a serious volume of experience that tropical countries such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia have in terms of conservation, restoration and socio-economic aspects of mangroves,” NM Ishwar, former India coordinator for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, who spearheaded the ‘Mangroves for the Future’ programme, told DTE.   

An international centre would probably benefit more if it was being hosted by these countries rather than a temperate country wherein the diversity and the issues related to mangroves are very different compared to a tropical one, Ishwar added.

Report on China Mangrove Conservation and Restoration Strategy Research Project also noted that since the 1990s, the mangrove area in China had decreased sharply to 22,000 hectares in 2000, only 45 per cent that of the early 1950s.

However, the draft resolution painted a positive picture. “There are also a few countries with an increasing area of mangroves, including China where the area of mangroves has raised by 7,000 hectares in the two decades since 2001,”it said.

Down To Earth also sent a message with a request for comment to the Paulson Institute, one of the three partner organisations of the Chinese government that were part of the Report on China Mangrove Conservation and Restoration Strategy Research Project. This story will be updated as and when we get a response.

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