(Two giant pandas play with each other on a tree in their habitat in China's southwestern Sichuan Province.Photo: scol.com.cn)
Members of the 30th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) agreed in Lithuania Wednesday to put China's giant panda habitat on the World Heritage List.
Another Chinese site applying for inclusion, the ruins of the Shang Dynasty capital in Anyang city, Henan Province, was due to be discussed during the afternoon.
After deliberation, the WHC unanimously agreed to place the panda habitat on the list, making it the 35th Chinese site to be included.
"We greatly thank the Chinese government for submitting such a good application to the WHC to enrich the World Heritage List," said the WHC.
"We greatly thank the Chinese government for its tremendous efforts to protect such a precious site of biodiversity," it added.
Wang Fengwu, member of the Chinese delegation to the meeting, told Chinese reporters that the successful inclusion of the site on the list would prompt effective protection of rare and endangered animals and plant species.
China had spent 20 years attempting to get the panda habitat included on the World Heritage List, said Wang, who is also deputy Director-General of the Department of Urban Development at the Ministry of Construction of China.
China's earnest will to protect world heritage received appreciation from the WHC, which put the panda habitat at the top of the agenda of 37 sites to be discussed for inclusion at the meeting.
He said that adding the panda site to the list was good for both the protection of the rare creature and its habitat, which is of great ecological value.
The giant pandas and their habitat will be protected in the future not only in accordance with Chinese law but also international law, he added.
Wang believed that the successful inclusion of the site on the list would prompt effective protection of rare and endangered animals and plant species that depend on the habitat. This would help to ensure that the giant pandas survive for generations to come.
As China is not one of the 21 members of the WHC, it did not submit a report on the site, Wang told reporters, adding that the WHC agreed to place the site on the list after deliberating over a report submitted by international experts.
The report spoke highly of the habitat's bio-diversity value, describing it as an area featuring rare and endangered animals and plants.
Experts also said that urgent improvements needed to be made to protect the site, proposing that the construction of water plants, roads and other development inside the habitat be controlled.
The giant panda habitat of Sichuan Province is a 9,510 sq km area which includes the world-renowned Wolong nature reserve