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From herdsmen to saving the environment

The government has been controlling herding, downsizing industrial production, and remodeling towns in an ongoing program to protect the source of the Yangtze River on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Billions of dollars have been rolled out to reverse the once deteriorating environment in the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in northwest China’s Qinghai Province.

Kunga Namje, a herdsman for five decades, moved out of the grassland in the nature reserve 11 years ago to live in a suburb of Golmud.

Another 406 herdsmen decided to move with Namje.

In return, they receive 20,000 yuan (US$3,200) from the government a year.

“We moved out of our own free will,” Namje said. “We just want to protect the environment and the plateau.”

Tangula Mountain Town, which is at an altitude of 4,500 meters, is inside the nature reserve.

To conserve the environment and the source water of the Yangtze, the town’s government has been issuing quotas for herding based on each year’s growth of the grasslands. Many mines have also been shut down.

The town itself is also undergoing an infrastructure facelift, said Tang Haiping, deputy head of the local government. Local people have also volunteered to help protect the nature reserve.

Tsring, a local Tibetan, joined an environmental group after witnessing the growing amount of trash that came along with the increase in population.

Since 2012, he has been campaigning to raise local residents’ environmental awareness.

“Local Tibetan people are glad to protect the source of the Yangtze River,” Tsring said.

A large number of bar-headed geese come to breed in the nature reserve every April. In the past, people would take their eggs for food and that prompted environmental volunteers such as Tsring to act.

Tsring said he and fellow group members would camp out during the two-month breeding season and prevent people from taking away any eggs.

The number of bar-headed geese that came to breed had almost tripled in the past three years, Tsring said.

As environmental protection efforts continue, residents in the nature reserve find themselves in closer contact with wild animals.

A town official said he received reports from herdsmen of a bear rushing into their home and taking their food.

Over the past decade, according to an official report on protecting the reserve, the area of wetland in Sanjiangyuan had increased 279.9 square kilometers and the area of grassland grew 123.7 square kilometers.

In January 2014, 16 billion yuan was allocated for further protection of the nature reserve.


 

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