Sanjiangyuan protection benefits both nature and people

China Plus Published: 2017-09-25 16:10:28
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Known as Asia's water tank, Sanjiangyuan, or the Three-Rivers Source in Qinghai, contains the headwaters of the Yellow River, the Yangtze River, and the Lancang, which is also known as the Mekong River.

Over the past decade, the Chinese government has invested billions establishing the world's second-largest nature reserve in the area.

These efforts have not only improved the natural environment but also local living conditions.

Tashi Tsering in his late 30s was born not far away from the source of the Yangtze River.

In August, he drove more than 500 kilometers back to his homeland on an alpine steppe, together with two assistant eco-regulators.

He says the grasslands are looking better than ever, "I became an assistant eco-regulator in 2013. Over the past years, everything here remained unchanged and this summer, the weather has been good, the grass is growing well and the flowers look especially beautiful."

The photo taken on September 9, 2017 shows a village not far away from the source of the Yangtze River. [Photo: China Plus]

The photo taken on September 9, 2017 shows a village not far away from the source of the Yangtze River. [Photo: China Plus]

13 years ago, to protect the headwaters of China's longest river, more than 100 nomad households, including Tashi's family, bade a farewell to their ancestral pasture on the 4,800 meters high Tanggula Mountains and settled down some 500 kilometers away in Golmud.

Since then, herding in the Sanjiangyuan area has been banned.

In 2012, as part of a national subsidy program for grassland protection, Qinghai established the assistant eco-regulator system, hiring locals to help patrol steppe reserves.

As one of the first assistant eco-regulators in his village, Tashi patrols his birthplace several times a year.

Each time, he needs to spend at least three days traveling over 1,000 kilometers.

The job brings him little more than 20,000 yuan a year.

But Tashi says the significance of his work is more than money, "The salary of an assistant regulator is not high given the long trips and high consumption on the way there. But it's not important. Protecting the grassland and ecology is our duty, we must perform it well."

Tashi says, after years of protection, there are now more wild animals in the area.

According to local plans, the number of eco-regulator staff will expand to more than 42,000, a nearly 10-fold increase from the original number.

But it's still outnumbered by the vast area they protect that exceeds more than 300,000 square kilometers.

To address the problem, a real time monitoring system has been established.

Li Hongqi, head of the provincial environmental information center, says, "The headwater area in Qinghai is so large, neither our technical strength nor the staff size can meet the requirements for its protection, and the problem is especially outstanding at the grassroots level. We must apply more modern technologies to deal with the personnel shortage."

Besides the monitoring system already in operation, Qinghai also aims to build a province-wide environment monitoring network and eventually a Big Data platform.

Over the years, ecological protection has not only improved the environment, but also helped reduced poverty by creating new jobs such as assistant eco-regulator.

In Tashi's village, the number of households has more than doubled in the past decade with per capita annual income rising from less than 2,000 yuan to over 20,000 at present.

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