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Various conservation tasks to begin soon; endangered bird species return
Swans gather in Qilihai Natural Wetland Park in Tianjin. [Photo provided to China Daily]
A 49-kilometer fencing project costing 20 million yuan ($3 million) will
begin this month in the 44.9 sq km core areas of the city's Qilihai wetland.
The massive project comes early in an eight-year project that began last year, with 14 billion yuan allocated to transform the misused wetland area - a former tourist destination and hub of fishing and farming with a population of 25,000 - to regain its natural beauty, according to Tong Naiyong, director of the Qilihai administrative committee.
The wetland, on the boundary of Tianjin and Hebei province, has 40 sq km of reeds and 23 sq km of water area. It serves an important function in the region's ecology.
Yu Zenghui, a science consultant for the wetland, said that the wetland has noticeably improved over the past 10 years.
According to a survey, the variety of wild birds has increased from 182 species to 235. Many of the country's first-and second-class birds that live there and are protected - the Oriental white stork, relict gulls and the Chinese penduline titmouse - were observed for the first time during the past decade.
"Some endangered birds have even increased here," he said.
The massive project has sped up recently. More than 200 illegal structures have been removed, Tong said. A total 34 major roads in the core area had been closed as of mid-June.
"Qilihai, our homeland, has seen a significant face-lift, said Li Ziguo, who lives in Renfeng village. "Yesterday's crowds of tourists have disappeared, the smoking restaurants have vanished, and farmland and fishing areas have moved to other places."
Residents were ordered to stop illegal fishing and planting in the 45.6 sq km of reedy land and nearby areas. They were offered new land in other areas.
The scale of Qilihai's ecological recovery projects is historically rare in China. "We can hardly find any other example to copy," said Yu, the consultant.
Tong said, "We should never rest on one year's laurels. We still have difficult challenges ahead."
Eight new projects - including bringing more water to the area, building a new dam and removing sludge - are critically needed soon, Tong said.
"By 2020, we plan to increase the water volume to 80 million cubic meters annually," he said. "Preserving the ecology is also a priority for us," he said. "By 2020, we plan to help 25,000 people in five villages move to other areas."
A key task for the government in the wetland project is offering new land to villagers to induce them to move. Other projects, including massive reed rehabilitation, ecological recovery and scientific education, are also underway.