China has 65.94 million ha. of wetlands, of which 36.20 million ha. are natural wetlands, ranking first in Asia and fourth in the world.
Widely distributed across China and widely varied, China's wetlands fall into 28 different types and 5 categories, including marine, river, marsh and reservoir. Since joining the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1992, China's government has established 535 natural wetland reserves, including low beaches by seas, lakes and rivers and forest-edge wetlands. Of these 30, with a total area of 3.43 million ha, have been classified as Wetlands of International Importance, thus 40 percent of the natural wetlands and 33 key animal species under state protection are effectively preserved within the nature reserves. Thanks to effective protection, the Lalu Wetland in Lhasa, Tibet, the world's highest, largest natural wetland within a city, has stopped shrinking, expanding from under 6 sq km at the end of the millennium to 6.2 sq km today. Its vegetation coverage, most of it grassy marsh, is over 95 percent.
A National Plan for Wetland Protection Actions begun in November 2000 aims to stop human activity-related shrinking of natural wetlands by 2010, and to restore deteriorated or vanished wetlands by 2020.
The National Program for Wetland Protection Engineering, approved by the State Council in 2003, set these goals: by 2030 China will have 713 wetland reserves, including 80 Wetlands of International Importance, with 90 percent of natural wetlands effectively protected; at the same time, 1.4 million ha of wetlands will be restored, and 53 national model zones of wetland protection and proper exploitation will be built, forming a relatively complete system of wetland protection, management and construction.