Research Article

Countermeasures and Suggestions on Urban Wetland Conservation and Restoration in the Progress of Urbanization

Zhao Min1,2
1Institute of Hydraulic Economics, Hohai University, Nanjing, China
2Research Center for Water Resources and Sustainable Development in Jiangsu Province, Nanjing, China
*Corresponding author:

Dr. Zhao Min, Institute of Hydraulic Economics, Hohai University, Nanjing, China, Email:


Urbanization, Urban wetland, Ecological system, Countermeasures and suggestions

Wetland constitutes an important part of the ecological system, while urban wetland is indispensable in ecological system protection. However, with urbanization speeding up, bottlenecks restricting urban wetland conservation are increased, the aggravating challenge in urban wetland conservation. Taking Jiangsu Province as an example, in this paper, through analyzing the current situation and existing problems in urban wetland resources, countermeasures and suggestions on urban wetland conservation are systematically proposed for reference of the sustainable urban wetland ecosystem.

Wetland, important territorial and natural resources with multiple functions, is vitally interrelated to living, reproduction, and development of humankind. Moreover, as ecology landscape with the most biodiversities and one of the most important living environments of humankind, besides providing various resources for production and living of humankind, wetland also has great environmental functions and effective and plays important role in flood control, flow regulation, water detention and drought control, pollution control, climate regulation, soil denudation, land creation and environment beautification; therefore, wetland is hailed as “kidney of the Earth” and collectively known as three global ecosystems with forest and ocean [1,2].

However, with the population explosion, continuous land expansion and reasonable and utilization of wetland, natural wetland area is gradually reduced with declining functions and efficiency. With urbanization speeding up, bottlenecks restricting urban wetland conservation are increased, the aggravating challenge in urban wetland conservation. Therefore, urban wetland conservation had been of great urgency.

For example, Jiangsu Province, with a total area of 102,600km2, accounting for 1% of the national territorial area, and wetland area of 39,980km2, accounting for 39% of the total provincial-territorial area, is one of the provinces with the most abundant wetland resources in China. The wetland, including 17,480km2 of natural wetland and 22,500km2 of constructed wetland, is divided into 5 types, i.e. coastal wetland, river wetland, lake wetland, marsh wetland and constructed wetland (water reservoir, fishpond and rice field, etc.) [3]. However, as per data of the 6th nationwide population census in 2010, Jiangsu Province with population, accounting for 5.87% of the total population in China is a typical place having a large population and little land. With the development of society and the economy, the contradiction between supply and demand of land resources becomes increasingly prominent. Particularly, in rapid development process of urbanization, land reclamation for increasing urban area reduces the urban wetland area, unordered and excessive utilization of underground water lowers underground water level, leading to reducing or even drying up of wetland water; centralized construction of urban infrastructures blocks up the original water circulation system intentionally or unintentionally, resulting in paralysis of wetland complement water system; immoderate discharge of urban production wastewater and domestic sewage results in ecological environmental pollution and wetland water quality degradation; all these have seriously damaged urban wetland resource and its ecological functions, causing adverse impact to living environment of urban residents [4,5]. At present, problems and defects existing in urban wetland conservation of Jiangsu Province are mainly reflected in the following aspects [6]:

(1) In the progress of urbanization, corresponding publicity and education are not insufficient. For example, publicity and education in urban wetland conservation are laggard, resulting in the poor social consciousness of wetland conservation, and a good atmosphere of “leading from the government and participating in by all people” has not been formed yet. Particularly, due to the poor ecological protection consciousness, decision-makers of some cities pursue short-term economic benefit, develop and utilize urban wetland blindly, resulting in ecological degradation, water pollution and biodiversity reduction and even complete function loss of some urban wetlands.

(2) In the progress of urbanization, with economical and social development and urban population increasing, on the one hand, blind reclamation and utilization of the natural water system, reduce wetland area year by year in some cities; on the other hand, uncontrolled real estate development converts many wetlands into urban construction land and wetlands are replaced by engineering construction, building site or constructed land surface. Therefore, developed regions with higher urbanization level will face more difficulties in wetland conservation.

(3) In rapid progress of urbanization, as needed by infrastructure construction, original ecological and biologically diversified bank lines of urban rivers and lakes are replaced by rigid revetment and masonry bottom, which seriously damages biodiversity and environment of urban wetland, resulting in deterioration, regression and even complete loss of the wetlands’ ecological service functions of water conservation, water quality purification, rainwater and floodwater regulation and conservation, beautifying environment, reducing “heat island effect” and etc.

(4) In rapid progress of urbanization, with continuously increasing of urban population, excessive production and domestic sewage and waste are discharged untreated and finally flow to urban wetland and water, which greatly exceeds self-cleaning capacity of wetland, resulting in wetland water quality degradation, biological species reduction and ecological function regression and damaging ecological environment of wetland and even the whole city.

(5) In the rapid progress of urbanization, damage in ecological environment integrity of urban wetland and changes in soil layers and supporting conditions of soil supply capacities reduce plant productivity, vegetation coverage, and biodiversity, which results in environmental function regression and wetland ecosystem function loss and obstructs gradual restoration of natural ecological function of wetland.

Urban wetland, being closely related to habitat for humanity, has various ecological functions irreplaceable by other urban natural ecosystems; besides providing abundant resources, it also has a great environmental regulatory function, landscaping and ecological benefits, plays a huge significant role in ensuring urban ecological security and determines the sustainable development of the city. Sound wetland ecosystem is crucial for improving health level of the urban ecosystem, building urban ecological security pattern, stimulating urban ecological vigor and realizing sustainable development of the city. Precautions, or at least remedial measures, shall be taken for protection and utilization of urban wetland; moreover, “investment” shall be made for health and stability of natural ecosystems, so that to prevent wetland ecological catastrophe in an urban area.

(1) The following relationships shall be handled correctly in conservation and utilization of urban wetland resources [6]: Firstly, the relationship between urban wetland conservation and urban economical and social development. The Urban water system, as the lifeblood for growing and sustainable development of modern cities, has various irreplaceable functions in flood control, disaster prevention, rainwater and floodwater regulation, ecological safety and climate regulation. Pollution and damage to water source, wetland, and water circulation will inevitably threaten urban safety and development. Secondly, the relationship between urban wetland conservation and urban ecological safety. The healthy urban wetland is critical to urban safety. Natural water circulation, self-purification, and recycling will not be achieved without healthy wetland water system; as a result, sound urban development will be impractical. Therefore, protecting urban wetland is to maintain urban safety. Thirdly, the relationship between scientific control and reasonable utilization of urban wetland. Endless utilization of urban wetland will not only result in wetland resource exhaustion but also cause irreversible impact to urban wetland ecosystem. As an organic component of urban infrastructure, the wetland must be scientifically planned and reasonably utilized under the precondition of protection. Fourthly, the relationship between spontaneous recovery of urban wetland and gardenized construction. Coexistence and complementarity of land gardens and wetland shall meet both people’s requirements in visit and appreciation and ecosystem conservation requirement.

(2) The primary tasks of urban wetland development are conservation and restoration, i.e. to preserve inherent natural ecosystem of wetland and reduce adverse impacts caused by human activities (e.g. development and construction, tourist business, reclamation and cultivation) to wetland in area reduction, living varieties reduction, population quantity declining and ecosystem structure change to the greatest extent through building wetland reserve area and urban wetland ecological parks as per provisions of relevant national policies to the greatest extent.

(3) Improve urban wetland management policies and legal system to determine policies, principles and code of conduct in urban wetland development and utilization, define authorities and management division of institutions of each level and industry and prescribe management procedures, handling methods and processes through laws and regulations, thereby to provide basic standards for managers and user in urban wetland conservation and reasonable utilization; formulate restrictive policies for activities threatening wetland and incentive policies for wetland resource conservation activities to coordinate wetland conservation and urban economic development.

(4) Carry out publicity and education in urban wetland resource conservation to improve the public consciousness in importance of wetland functions and wetland conservation and strengthen the public awareness of unexpected development in wetland resources, so that to make every individual of the urban society to be aware of his/her responsibilities and obligations in protecting urban wetland and arouse the public enthusiasm of participating in urban wetland conservation.

(5) Learn and introduce advanced management methods and engineering technologies home and abroad to scientifically carry out urban wetland conservation and restoration work [7,8]; implement the policies of “comprehensive conservation, ecology priority, reasonable utilization and sustainable development; according to practical situation and current condition of urban wetland resource conservation in varies regions to maintain urban wetland system ecosystem balance, protect multiple functions and biodiversity of urban wetland for the purpose of giving play to ecological, economic and social benefits of urban wetland to the greatest extent and realizing harmonious coexistence of humankind and nature.

(6) Establish dynamic supervision and management information system for urban wetland resource as soon as possible to evaluate, analyze, dynamically monitor and manage the natural, social and ecological environmental elements of urban wetland on the basis of thorough investigation on urban wetland resource, thereby o improve efficiency and effect of urban wetland conservation; in the mean time, scientific and technical support and training should be carried out for urban wetland conservation to comprehensively improve professional quality and management level of urban wetland resource managers and technical personnel in cities of all levels and improve urban wetland resource conservation management level.

As a special natural complex formed through the interaction of water and land, natural sewage purifier and one of the ecosystems with the greatest biodiversity in nature, the urban wetland has significant ecological functions and benefits. Wetland is an important support system and environmental foundation for origin and continuation of human civilization; degradation, conservation and restoration of wetland will be an eternal of human society. With great and far-reaching significance to urban safety and ecological civilization construction as well as sustainable economic and social development, enhancing urban wetland resource conservation is a shared mission of contemporary humankind.

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Published: 05 April 2017

Reviewed By : Dr. Paolo Vassallo, Dr. Hong Jiang, Dr. Arch. Fabio Naselli,


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