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Global Times: Yellow River ecology under national strategy sees wildlife recovery

BEIJING, Sept. 19, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- Whether it is its agricultural output or its status as the cradle of civilization, the value of the Yellow River is difficult to quantify from a fixed perspective. However, for the locals of Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province, this sandy mother river has gained a reputation that extends beyond its geography, becoming a place of recreation, perfect for leisure activities and bird watching over the last few decades.

On the newly built Nanguotou Square in the northern part of Zhengzhou, a viewing platform made of red bricks stands tens of meters high. The Yellow River makes a small bend here and continues to flow eastward. When facing the river, the seemingly boundless water reflects everything that belongs to nature: the lush poplar forests and the occasional soaring egrets.

The site is ideal for enjoying a picturesque sunrise or sunset. Shortly before sunset, many people gather on the Romanesque steps of the platform, the construction design of which was inspired by the Colosseum, to marvel at the setting sun. 

The entire platform is made of specially fired giant red bricks, which will be also used in prevention of floods occurring. Yellow River water conservancy projects now serve to minimize the risk of flooding. 

During a visit last weekend, local government officials told the Global Times that the development of the Yellow River in Zhengzhou is closely linked to the support of the national strategy for the Yellow River.

President Xi Jinping called for concerted efforts to promote ecological protection and the high-quality development of the Yellow River in 2019. This major strategic decision aims to ensure the sustainable development of the Chinese nation and Chinese civilization.  

"In addition, with the introduction of the Yellow River law, we have finally cleared out all polluting factories and farmhouses, moved them away from the coastal beaches that stretched for hundreds of meters, and built the leisure venues we see now," Zhang Chao, a government official in Huiji district in Zhengzhou, told the Global Times, saying that there are currently three such squares that have been built since the implementation of the law.

New mode

Far from disappearing, farmhouses located close to the waterway that provided agritainment to tourists were relocated further inland with the help of the government while the farm owners received compensation for their relocation. 

These farmhouses, however, were not the main source of water pollution. To completely restore the environment of the Yellow River, various factories that were built along the coast were demolished to prevent further water and soil pollution. 

The fishing boats that had been on the river for decades were also grounded after owners were compensated, and fishing on the Yellow River was banned. 

"But this does not mean that the Yellow River has become a site for pure sightseeing only. In the future, we will try to develop some entertainment and catering centers while keeping pollution to a minimum," Zhang added. 

Thanks to the efforts of the government and the locals in ­Zhengzhou, the number of wild bird species in the Yellow River wetland has increased from 169 when the reserve was established in 2006 to 283 at present, an increase of 114 species over a span of 17 years, according to data released by the Zhengzhou Forestry Bureau in February 2023. 

Along the seven-kilometer-long ecological corridor, tourists can observe water birds such as egrets and black storks.

The ecological corridor is flanked by lakes formed by the Yellow River canal and rice fields, creating a harmonious balance. In the major grain-producing province, the focus on preserving the river's ecology has not compromised grain output. 

According to a report on the high-quality development of the Yellow ­River in 2022 released during the recent Great Rivers Civilizations Forum held in Zhengzhou, the total grain output of nine provinces along the Yellow River reached 242.456 million tons in 2022, accounting for 35.3 percent of the national total grain output.

Culture-bounded future

"For the Yellow River, our next step is building its culture brand based on each river city's specialty," said Wu Chengzhong, a Yellow River scholar at the University of International Business and Economics.

In early September, China launched a plan to build the Yellow River national cultural park, aiming to create an important symbol of Chinese culture and shape a model of innovation and inheritance of the great river civilization. "Ecological management of the Yellow River is an important part of building a cultural park, but a cultural park is not equivalent to ecological management," said Wu. 

The Yellow River has natural ecological corridors and several important ecological function areas such as the Three Rivers Source, Qilian Mountain, and Ruoergai. 

In Zhengzhou, the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed railway line runs on a bridge that connects north and south over a seemingly suspended river, the flow rate of which has been dramatically slowed due to large amounts of sedimentation. To showcase the history and achievements of managing the Yellow River to more tourists, a Yellow River Museum in the city, a stone's throw from the river, preserves the culture of the Yellow River. 

"But of course in the future, more local cultural tourism modes on the Yellow River will also be needed," Wu noted.

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SOURCE Global Times

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