Dirty firms shut to protect pandas

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-27 06:54

YA'AN: The government of this city has closed down more than 10 polluting enterprises and asked 180 others to upgrade their facilities to help protect the habitat of China's giant pandas.

Wild pandas in Ya'an, in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, account for about a quarter of Sichuan's panda population and around 20 percent of the national total.

"The goal is to improve the environment to protect the giant panda's habitat," said Yun Kang, an information officer with the municipal government.

Ya'an, which sits in the western part of the Sichuan Basin, came to the world's attention when French naturalist and missionary Armand David became the first foreigner to spot a panda in Baoxing County in 1869.

With an area of 5,000 square kilometers, Sichuan's giant panda habitat is located between the Dadu and Minjiang rivers and covers the cities of Ya'an and Chengdu as well as the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture and Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. Fifty-two percent of the habitat is in Ya'an.

Ya'an has intensified its efforts to protect its section of Sichuan's giant panda habitat ever since the habitat was included on the List of the World Natural Heritage last July, Yun told China Daily.

Baoxing's economy is driven by the building materials industry. Although its factories are separate from the giant panda habitat, the county has closed down three polluting factories.

"Since Sichuan prepared for the inclusion of the giant panda's habitat on the World Natural Heritage List in 2000, Baoxing has closed down some 30 polluting enterprises and enterprises that could cause pollution," said Li Lu, an official at the Ya'an Municipal Urban Construction Bureau.

He said Ya'an had also banned hunting in the giant panda's habitat and relocated people who were living in it.

"Thanks to these efforts, it is not unusual for wild pandas to approach farmhouses and forest farms. Instead of hurting them, people observe whether they are ill or hungry and see if they can help," said Li Guilin, a farmer in Baoxing's Yanjing Township.

One night in January, a wild panda entered a farmer's pigsty in Baoxing and slept with the pigs for a night. It did not leave until 10 am the next day.

"The farmer did not disturb it and placed porridge near it," Li said.

(China Daily 03/27/2007 page5)

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