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Building a Forest Park: Restoring the Ecological Environment

2017-09-11 07:46:50 China Today

In an effort to create a “beautiful China,” the 18th CPC National Congress advocated making ecological progress a priority, incorporating it into China’s overall development plan, along with economic, political, cultural, and social progress.

On an inspection tour of Anhui Province in April, 2016, President Xi Jinping commended the progress already made in the region. Expressing his esteem he remarked: “Anhui has laid a foundation for green and low-carbon development. I hope Anhui can become the forerunner of reform and innovation.” In the pursuit of this objective, Anhui Province published five development action plans, one of which focuses on green development and the construction of an ecological model.

Binhu National Forest Park in Anhui Province allures large numbers tourists every year for its clean air.

The Chaohu Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in China, is located in southeast Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province. In recent years, Hefei has aimed to become a city famous for its lakeside scenery and capacity forinnovation, promoting the construction of an ecological demonstration area around Chaohu Lake. Located on the north shore of Chaohu, the Binhu National Forest Park is a successful model for ecological restoration.

A Jewel on the Shore of Chaohu Lake

The Binhu National Forest Park enjoys an excellent geographical location. Located on the north shore of the Chaohu Lake and near the South Feihe River estuary. Only five km away from the future administrative center of Anhui Province, the area stretches over 1,072 hectares, including 799 hectares of forest and 263 hectares of water-covered areas. According to the results of a scientific study, the negative oxygen ion count is 2,500 to 3,000 per cubic centimeter; this level meets the highest national standard. As a result, the park has acquired a reputation for being the “Lung of the City.”

As a state-level forest park, the Binhu Wetland Park in Hefei was formed as both a result of reforesting cultivated land and ecological restoration. Hefei is now the only provincial capital in China with two national forest parks. For many years, the forest has played a significant role in air purification, climate regulation, water purification, water conservation, and the protection and restoration of the ecological environment of the city.

With “protection, utilization, and moderate development” in mind, park authorities introduced large tourist facilities such as bike rental stations outside the park. Zheng Liang

The park was overflowing with tourists, some journeying on the sightseeing bus, some riding bicycles and others wandering through the forest, becoming one with nature. Now and then, newly-weds could be seen taking wedding photos against beautiful backdrops. They told China Today that the lushness and natural landscape of the park was a perfect setting for beautiful brides.

According to park staff, this park boasts to be the only forest of its size with a water network in Anhui Province and over 280 species of plants. The upper part of the forest features a cluster of tall poplar trees and rare plants such as metasequoia, glossy privet, and slash pines; the middle part features camphor trees, mulberry trees and Chinese tallow trees; the lower part features vegetation such as palm trees, cotton roses, and vines. Some rare tree species such as metasequoia, Chinese dove trees, and ginkgo can also be found here, in addition to water plants including powdery thalia, German iris, and lotus.

However, the area was in poor condition prior to the building of the park. An official in Baohe District, Hefei, explained: “This place was originally called Dazhangwei. ‘Wei’ means dams built around low-lying areas. Since ancient times, this place has had plenty of water and lush pasture, so from the Qing Dynasty people began building dams to reclaim land from the lakes, causing environmental degradation.”

To improve the ecological environment in Dazhang-wei, Baohe District reforested some of the cultivated land in 2002, creating apoplar tree plantation ofabout 10,000 mu. In 2011, Anhui Province re-structured the administrative division and began the construction of an ecological demonstration area around Chaohu Lake. Due to the ongoing ecological construction around Chaohu, in August 2012, Baohe District made the park a top priority for ecological construction and strove to make it a jewel on the brink of Chaohu Lake that would benefit all city residents.

A green area with water and forests, the Binhu Wetland Park is the only forest of its size with a water network in Anhui Province. Uncredited photos by Baoxuan

The Binhu National Forest Park has broken two national records for parks of its kind. First, it was the most creative, turning an artificial forest into a state-level national forest park through ecological restoration; second, it took only 17 months to get state approval, which is the shortest time taken for any park.

Ecological Restoration First

President Xi Jinping once pointed out: “To promote green development and a green lifestyle, one of the key tasks is to speed up ecological restoration and implement the integrated preservation and rehabilitation of water, mountains, forests, farmland, and lakes.” According to park workers, during the process of construction, Hefei vigorously implemented restoration projects such as vegetation expansion and wetland restoration. Every year people throw tens of thousands of fish fries into the water to maintain the original water system and protect native plants, minimizing damage caused by construction and human activity through implementing non-artificial methods to restore natural rivers.

The Jiaolao River, originally a major canal in the Dazhangwei Forest Area, is a typical example of ecological restoration. It used to be plagued with water shortages, wetland functional degradation and a poor self-purification capacity. To solve these problems, a series of restoration measures were taken during park construction. For example, the channel was dredged to restore water flow. Ecological revetments were built using wood piles and various kinds of shrubs and trees such as calamus, Indian shot, Fatsia, and pine trees. A multi-level artificial water purification system was installed to replenish the park with one to two tons of purified water every day. A multi-level artificial wetland was constructed to promote overall water quality. Now, the Jiaolao River is lively with flowing water channels, overgrown reeds and calamus, as well as flying egrets.

Environmentally friendly materials are used as much as possible in building necessary facilities. The eco-toilets are all equipped with a complete sewage disposal system for discharge and waste utilization; all the service centers are housed in eco-cabins, the trails are built from eco-pavement and plank roads. Based on the principle of “protection, utilization, and moderate development,” the park authority established large tourist facilities, catering and parking service projects outside the park, controlling the size and scale to match the ecological environment. After years of development and construction, the Binhu National Forest Park, with remarkable ecological value and social benefits, has multi-functions such as sightseeing, leisure, sports, and popular science education.

The Forest Ranger System

Hefei initiated the “forest ranger system” after successfully implementing the “river ranger system.” Henceforth, every river, slope, and park has qualified personnel in charge.

On June 4, 2017, the inauguration of the “forest ranger system” was held, kicking off the implementation of the system in six ecological regions and the construction of the National Ecological Garden City. According to the “Forest Ranger System” Implementation Plan for Key Ecological Regions in Hefei, the city will build a four-level (city, county, township, and village) “forest ranger system” and implement it in six ecological regions, namely the state-level forest park, the state-level wetland park (a pilot project), the state-owned forest farm, the major ecological corridor, the major urban park, and the key water conservation forest, to ensure a clear division of responsibility to the specific person in charge.

Meanwhile, an evolution system for the forest ranger will be implemented. The forest ranger at and above county level is responsible for monitoring his subordinates. This evaluation is crucial for local Party and government officials to give comprehensive appraisal. Any rangers who are dismissed will be held accountable in strict accordance with pertinent regulations.

Utilizing regional forest resources, Hefei is speeding up the integrative development of its forestry and tourism industry, promoting eco-tourism, building relevant industrial bases, and creating influential tourist attractions and brands.

“A clean environment and people’s livelihood are closely related; people’s happiness lies in having a beautiful homeland with blue sky and green hills,” said President Xi Jinping. Over recent years, Anhui Province has balanced economic growth with ecological progress and created a better ecological environment that improves people’s quality of life. In time, green fields, clean water, and blue sky in the region will be even more beautiful.

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