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Ecology is the first priority (Ⅰ)

(People's Daily)    08:35, August 07, 2019

Video: Water flows downstream from the very source of the Yellow River.

China's achievements in poverty reduction in recent years have been unprecedented. Official data shows China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty in the past four decades. From 2012 to 2018, the number of people living under the national poverty line (about $436) has dropped by more than 80 million to 16.6 million.

Graphics shows the poverty levels in China's rural areas according to the current rural poverty standard, Oct 17, 2016. (Photo: Xinhua)

By 2020, China aims to eradicate poverty to build a moderately prosperous society. However, among the people who have still been left behind, a considerable number live in remote areas and are in deep poverty. This makes poverty reduction efforts very difficult.

Qumalai, is such a deeply impoverished county, located in the north of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of China's northwest Qinghai Province. It is a pure pastoral highland in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, mainly inhabited by Tibetans.

Photo: A brook in Qumalai county stretches into the distance.

Its average altitude is more than 4,000 meters, with a typical plateau cold climate characterized by coldness and anoxia, lengthy exposure to sunshine and strong ultraviolet radiation. The annual temperature difference is small, but the daily temperature difference is large.

The harsh climate and geographical conditions have caused the county to be deeply impoverished. Among its 45,718 population, 11,328 people from 3365 households are registered as poor, said Li Jian, deputy secretary of the Qumalai County Party Committee.

Li said that a lack of industries has been the bottleneck for local development. "The largest industry, cattle and sheep, is facing limited grazing because of the degradation of grassland," Li lamented. "We must build two or three more industries as a matter of urgency, which can protect the ecological environment and increase people's income.”

Photo: Students in a local school for orphans pose for photos in front of an off-road vehicle.

Ecology is the first priority

To lift people out of poverty, normally it would be a common tactic to build up industries which can create jobs. However, creating industries in Qumalai requires caution.

As the core area where Asia's three greatest rivers - the Yellow River (mother river of China), Yangtze River (the world's third largest river) and the Langcang River (also known as Mekong River and the longest river in Southeast Asia), start their long journey of life, Qumalai bears great ecological significance which can never be overemphasized.

Each year, the source area of the three rivers supplies about 6 billion cubic meters of water downstream. It is therefore called the "China Water Tower.” It is also the most concentrated area of plateau biodiversity, home of the Tibetan antelope, wild yaks, Tibetan wild donkeys, brown bears, snow leopards, wolves, hawks and larks.

Photo: Water flows in the Three-River-Source region./ Credit to Three-River-Source National Park website

Water is the blood of the earth and the rise and development of all civilizations on this blue planet depends on water. Qumalai's special geographical location, abundant natural resources and important ecological functions make it an important ecological filter not only for China, but also for Asia and the world.

However, global warming and human activity such as overgrazing has led to prominent grassland degradation, desertification, soil erosion, and melting ice and snow in this region.

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized that Qinghai must shoulder the great responsibility of protecting the source of the Three Rivers and the "China Water Tower.” He stressed that Qinghai's greatest value is in its ecology, its greatest responsibility is in its ecology, and its greatest potential is in its ecology.

2016 was also the year that the Three-River-Source National Park started trial operations in an attempt to protect the ecology in the region. In 2020, the park will officially open, becoming China's first national park.

With the ecology being the first priority, the exploitation of mineral resources is prohibited, though there are gold deposits which could easily make the local people prosperous, said Li. In addition, raising livestock cannot be expanded in a disorderly way. "Even building infrastructure needs caution."

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(Web editor: Shi Xi, Bianji)

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