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China to spend nearly 1 bln dollars to repel wetland rats

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Mar 4 (Reuters) China will target a 7.5 billion yuan fund at repelling an invasion of rats eating their way across fragile wetlands on the Tibetan plateau, the China Daily has said.

Over the past decade, rats had chewed through one third of the grasslands in the massive Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in remote western Qinghai province, exacerbating erosion around the world's highest and largest wetlands, the report said yesterday. ''The rat disaster in the Sanjiangyuan region is huge, with the population of rodents increasing sharply,'' Sanzhi Caidan, from the Qinghai Provincial Grassland Protection Station, was quoted as saying.

By eating grass, digging holes and turning up the earth, the rodents had turned vast pastures into wastelands where herders could not raise their animals.

The government funds to save Sanjiangyuan would be spent on developing ''better poisons or methods which can kill the rodents, but not harm other animals and the environment'' and would also go towards water conservation and relocating farmers, the China Daily said.

Wetlands are shrinking across China, mostly a result of over-exploitation of rivers and construction of dams, just one aspect of the environmental damage caused by a quarter century of rapid growth.

More than a third of China's land is affected by acid rain or soil erosion, fuelling desertification in the north.

China's ruling Communist Party has made water and energy conservation a priority of its 11th five-year plan for development.

REUTERS PK KN0901

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