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China has grand plans for conserving and restoring wetlands — but caution is needed when evaluating such projects, says an editorial in Nature.

Although the country has made laudable efforts in wind energy, vehicle-emission standards and pollution control, it is not clear whether China has always been as successful in its green ventures as it claims.

For example, some critics allege that China's pre-Olympic increase in smog-free days was simply achieved by moving monitors to cleaner areas.

And the country's autocratic approach to environmental projects often fails to consider social consequences, says the editorial. The Three Gorges Dam, for example, displaced 1.24 million people. China's wetland project could also cause social harm that discolours any environmental good.

The editorial suggests that China's environmental projects would be more effective if the government was more open to feedback, especially from scientists.

Environmentalists must find ways to promote the common good while respecting social values. One solution is to use the 'environmental services' idea of putting economic values on the benefits provided by ecosystems such as coastal wetlands, says the editorial.

Link to full article in Nature

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