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Cablegate: Combating Land Degradation in China: A Look at the Prc-Gef

VZCZCXRO9730
PP RUEHAST RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHTM
DE RUEHBJ #4332/01 3310023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 260023Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1075
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 9544
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 0019
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 9528
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 9203
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0735
RUEHUM/AMEMBASSY ULAANBAATAR 3640
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 1343
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 7126

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 004332

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ENGRD EAID CH

SUBJECT: COMBATING LAND DEGRADATION IN CHINA: A LOOK AT THE PRC-GEF
DRYLANDS PARTNERSHIP

BEIJING 00004332 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: An International Workshop on "Integrated
Ecosystems Management (IEM): Approaches and Applications" was held
in Beijing (Nov. 6-7) under the auspices of China's Ministry of
Finance, the State Forestry Administration of China, the Asian
Development Bank, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The
purpose of the workshop was to review progress made during the first
four-year phase (2004-2008) of the PRC-GEF Partnership on Land
Degradation in Dryland Ecosystems Project, share experiences and
"best practices" in land degradation control, and strengthen
technical coordination, cooperation and capacity building efforts.
Progress made in combating land degradation, as evidenced in
workshop presentations and discussion, will likely encourage the
establishment of additional land management partnerships based on
IEM approaches and applications. END SUMMARY.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

2. (U) Much of China's land area lies in arid or semi-arid zones and
is highly vulnerable to drought and desertification. Land
degradation affects the livelihood, agricultural production, and
environmental quality of nearly a quarter of China's population,
especially in the western part of China. According to the GEF and
the Asia Development Bank, climate change, unsustainable
agricultural practices, deforestation, and mismanagement of water
resources has caused more than 2.6 million square kilometers (km2)
-- around 27 percent of the country -- to suffer from land
degradation. Dry areas in western China cover roughly 40 percent of
the country's total land area, and degraded land there is expanding
at an annual rate of about 3,500 km2. In addition, land degradation
in western China causes dust and sandstorms, and reduced water
quality due to silting, affecting the lives of several hundred
million people.

3. (U) The PRC-GEF Partnership on Combating Land Degradation in
Dryland Ecosystems -- the first partnership between the Chinese
government and the GEF -- was initiated in 2002 to support
integrated ecosystem management approaches to combat land
degradation, reduce poverty, and restore dry land ecosystems in
China's western region. IEM combines ecological, economic, and
societal objectives to alleviate poverty, combat land degradation,
and conserve biodiversity. The PRC-GEF Partnership operates through
a country programming framework (CPF) approved by the GEF Council in
2002. The CPF covers a 10-year period (2003-2012) and is aimed at
building institutional capacity for IEM models with the eventual
goal of widespread dissemination and replication. Four projects are
currently being implemented in China under the CFP: 1) the Capacity
Building to Combat Land Degradation Project; 2) the Xinjiang/Gansu
Pastoral Development Project; 3) the Helan Shan IEM Project in
Ningxia; and 4) the Conservation and Rehabilitation of Dryland
Ecosystems Project.

--------------------------------------------- ---
PROMOTING GEF PARTNERSHIPS AND CAPACITY BUILDING
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (U) Under the general themes of partnership building, information
sharing, and collaboration, workshop presentations focused on
progress made in sustainable land management projects utilizing IEM
approaches. Specific presentations included progress on land
degradation control in western China, sustainable land and water
management in Zambia, initiatives on sustainable land management in
Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and land
degradation control in Central Asia (Kyrgyz Republic). There was
general agreement that IEM approaches, as exemplified by the PRC-GEF
Partnership, have been valuable in combating land degradation and
that partnerships should be more widely adopted.

5. (U) Countries and project managers addressed how lessons learned
in China from the PRC-GEF Partnership could best help Caribbean,
African, and Central Asian countries meet their particular land
degradation demands and challenges. For the Caribbean, increased
capacity building related to their region and partnerships that will
help adapt land management applications to their needs. For Africa,
partnerships for sharing sustainable land management expertise are
needed most, as well as financial support and the need to mobilize
human resources. For Central Asia, the key issue is funding.

BEIJING 00004332 002.8 OF 003


Kyrgyzstan has only $4 million over the next 10 years to address
land degradation, but new demands are expected. For all,
sustainable land conservation depends on finances, subsidies, and
funding, and the key challenge will be obtaining much-needed
financial resources to help fund sustainable land management efforts
in the most at-risk countries.

6. (U) Mr. LI Sandan, Director General of the Qinghai Forestry
Bureau, emphasized the need for capacity building and reviewed the
lessons learned form applying IEM concepts and methods to combat
wetlands shrinkage, grasslands degradation, and decreasing
biodiversity in Qinghai Province. According to Li, IEM methods in
Qinghai province have strengthened coordination between different
government departments charged with ecosystem protection,
established a multi-sector coordination mechanism and have led to
improved ecological protection, helping to increase incomes for
farmers from 600 RMB to 1,500 RMB per month. Other presentations
focused on strategies and action plans for combating land
degradation in northwest China northwest and in Xinjiang, building
information sharing networks, and strengthening community capacity
building. Several presenters highlighted that China's Eleventh
Five-Year Plan calls for continual effort toward combating land
degradation and promoting ecosystem development.

--------------------------------------------- -----
CLIMATE CHANGE, LAND DEGRADATION, AND CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE
--------------------------------------------- -----

7. (U) Forests and conservation agriculture -- sustainable and
profitable agriculture also aimed at improving livelihoods of
farmers through minimal soil disturbance (no till), maintaining
permanent organic cover over soil, and practicing crop rotations --
are expected to play an important role in China's efforts to
mitigate the expected effects of climate change. Ms. GAO Yun,
Director of the Division on Climate Change at China's Meteorological
Administration, said that increasing frequency and intensity of
tropical storms and dry land forest fires are hampering China's
sustainable land management efforts. Gao outlined China's
strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change on land
areas, including relying on scientific and technological advances,
improving China's abilities to adapt to climate change,
strengthening institutional mechanisms to respond to climate change,
and enhancing public outreach and education efforts.

8. (U) Professor Ian Swingland, Deputy Chairman of the UK's Ultra
Green Group (Singapore), said that the IEM approach to land
conservation, combined with sustainable forestry management, can
help China build its carbon sequestration and emissions reduction
capabilities. Swingland also noted that "avoided deforestation"
projects (i.e. obtaining carbon credits or actual cash payments from
not cutting down trees) will be able to help curb deforestation and
reduce greenhouse gas emissions, when and if projects are
implemented (According to United Nations data, deforestation
releases about two billion tons of carbon per year.) Mr. LIU
Shirong of the Chinese Academy of Forestry also sees forests as
important sources for carbon sinks for China. In Liu's view, China
must also do more to protect grasslands, forests, and shrubs through
sustainable land and forest management to meet the challenges
associated with climate change. Mr. Des McGarry, a land management
consultant from Australia, discussed mitigating climate change in
China, and better ensuring agricultural adaptation for impending
climate change, through the application of conservation agriculture.


9. (SBU) COMMENT: Through the PRC-GEF Drylands Partnership, China
has made some progress combating land degradation, but significant
challenges remain. Large variations within China's
environment-related legal processes exist across the six provinces
where these processes have been applied, and existing land
management and ecology protection regulatory systems will need to be
strengthened if progress in combating land degradation is to
continue. Chinese environmental officials insist that over the last
four years integrated ecosystem management approaches have helped
improve grasslands management, soil conservation, and reforestation
efforts, but recognize that combating land degradation and
desertification will be a long term endeavor and that linking
efforts to combat land degradation to social and economic
development will be critical for the success of current and future

BEIJING 00004332 003.8 OF 003


projects. Especially challenging for the Chinese government will be
educating farmers and local officials on the need to shift from
existing farming and livestock practices to ecologically-friendly
farming and grazing techniques, something many communities so far
have been reluctant to do out of fear of reducing already meager
livelihoods. END COMMENT

RANDT

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