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Project suspended to make way for finless porpoises / by Li Jingrong, January 7, 2015 Adjust font size:

A 500 million yuan waterway construction project has been suspended to make way for the black finless porpoise, an endangered species in China's Yangtze River, the China Youth Daily reported.

A 500 million yuan waterway construction project has been suspended to make way for the black finless porpoise, an endangered species in China's Yangtze River. [File photo]

The Ministry of Environmental Protection announced on its website on Nov. 27 that the second stage of the project to build a channel at the Anqing River -- a section of the Yangtze River in Anhui Province -- had been suspended after taking the project's impact on black finless porpoises into consideration. This is unprecedented in the history of the country's water conservancy projects.

The black finless porpoise is a 1.9-meter-long cetacean creature which has been living in the Yangtze River for 25 million years. Due to the impact of human activities, particularly engineering projects over the past few decades, the number of black finless porpoises has drastically decreased to less than 1,000. In 1996, black finless porpoises were included by the International Union for Conservation of Nature on its list of "extremely endangered" species.

Yu Daoping, a professor and expert in biology at Anqing Teachers' College, said that engineering projects are an important part of national development in developing countries, and black finless porpoises naturally were often a lower priority than various engineering projects in China.

Since 2006, nearly 30 water conservancy projects have been analyzed and approved to be implemented in a nature reserve in the Xinluo section of the Yangtze River, which is under state-level protection.

"The latest statement issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to make way for black finless porpoises shows that the central government has attached great importance to the protection of wild animals in the area," said Professor Yu, adding "it is a good start."

Black finless porpoises in extinction crisis

The news of the suspension of the hugely expensive waterway construction project dealt a heavy blow to the Yangtze River Waterway Bureau, local governments and construction companies. The completion of the project as scheduled would have produced great economic benefits and would have had a direct bearing on the local economy and people's livelihoods.

The Anhui section of the Yangtze is home to the most densely concentrated population of black finless porpoises. About 200 of the porpoises live there, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total number of black finless porpoises in the river.

Zhang Xinqiao, a researcher at IUCN, said that the area could become a shelter for black finless porpoises mainly due to its wealth of lakes and tributaries of the Yangtze River and its relatively slow economic development.

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