Across China: Half water half fire: a volcano city's green journey

2021-01-21 12:05:40 GMT2021-01-21 20:05:40(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

KUNMING, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Home to 99 active and extinct volcanoes, a city sitting at the China-Myanmar border is a hotbed of biodiversity.

Tengchong, in southwest China's Yunnan Province, boasts an evergreen landscape, panoramic ranges, marshy flats, and above all, volcanoes. Its environment is known by locals as being "half water half fire."

The liquid rock spewed by the volcanoes across the area laid the foundations for the soil that nurtures great natural abundance. So far, the city has recorded more than 2,500 types of higher plants and over 560 vertebrates.

Zhang Xingguo, a 43-year-old farmer from Shuanghai Village, is now leading a team of boatmen offering tourist sightseeing services in Tengchong Beihai Wetland.

The provincial government approved the designation of the wetland as a nature reserve in 2005, spanning a total area of 1,629 hectares.

In 2010, Tengchong completed the conversion of paddy fields and fish ponds around the reserve into wetlands, covering nearly 200 hectares, along with other projects including dam construction, greening and disaster control. Around 120 hectares of vegetation was restored, thus speeding up the recovery of local biodiversity.

The ameliorated ecology presents tranquil vistas that attract numerous tourists, and villagers nearby have also enjoyed the benefits of tourism.

"More than 140 residents from our village are now working in the reserve," said Zhang. "Some are guides to introduce the wetland to tourists, and some work in the wetland protection patrol."

"I earn a monthly salary of 4,500 yuan (around 700 U.S. dollars) by rowing the sightseeing boats," he said.

The booming tourist industry has drawn back many young people to Shuanghai Village who used to work far from their hometown. The villagers' per capita net income increased from 2,710 yuan in 2007 to 11,300 yuan in 2019.

Apart from the wetland, the mountains are also subject to protection measures as part of Tengchong's eco-friendly development push.

Yang Xingcan, 48, has been a forest ranger in the Gaoligong Mountains for over two decades.

"Long ago, poachers could always be found in the mountains, and locals also logged with no restrictions," said Yang.

Duan Shaozhong, deputy director of the Tengchong bureau, Gaoligong Mountains Nature Reserve, said the ranges exist as a significant ecological barrier not only for Tengchong, but for China and even for the whole globe.

The bureau has made every effort to conserve the ecology of the mountains. It has organized a patrol made up of 180 rangers, 130 of whom are local villagers.

Yang earns 2,500 yuan every month as a ranger, and he also earns a decent income from his homestay business.

Hiking has become a key attraction of the local tourism industry. Hikers and mountaineering enthusiasts can experience the natural scenery in the mountains while trekking along marked paths.

Yang's homestay brings him about 200,000 yuan every year, and it also welcomed the crew from a variety show in which several Chinese celebrities starred.

Besides benefiting locals, Duan said the bureau has also installed more than 400 infrared cameras in the mountains to monitor wildlife and established a 2,600-hectare ecological corridor for the migration of animals.

Regarding industrial development, the Tengchong government has also cooperated with LONGi Green Energy Technology Co., Ltd., a leading photovoltaic module supplier, on a project producing monocrystalline silicon rods.

The rich hydropower resources of the city will be utilized in the production, and the products will also be made into solar energy panels -- another manifestation of Tengchong's green transformation. Enditem