Lijiang balances protection and modernization

By Zhang Wenyin and Wu Jiachun (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-10 10:16

Historic Suhe town is in the suburbs of Lijiang.

In 1997, the city of Lijiang in southwest China's Yunnan province became the first city in the country to be formally registered on the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites list.

Most people thought that entering the list would make the city more known to the whole country and the entire world.

However, He Shizhou, director of the local bureau for the protection of the ancient city, said becoming one of the World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites also means that the whole city must shoulder an unshakeable responsibility to protect its heritage at all times, while benefiting from its enhanced reputation.

Zhang Wenyin Lijiang, located in the northwest of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, was once an underdeveloped small town, which was then confronted with the conundrum of how to realize modernization while ensuring the protection of traditional heritage.

Since the 1990s, the local government has taken a series of measures to restore the original architecture of the ancient town. For instance, it has invested 160 million yuan in helping all organizations and enterprises move out of the ancient town.

In addition, the government rebuilt the original streets and built drainage, power and communications networks below them. It also stipulated several regulations to protect the ancient town.

One of the problems the city now faces is the lack of funds, says He. As a governmental organization, He's bureau has to date invested 1.2 billion yuan in the protection of the ancient city. But according to Lijiang's overall plan, another 1.8 billion yuan is required for further protection work in the next few years, spelling a huge burden for the underdeveloped city.

Despite the big challenges ahead, the local government has found a new way to protect the precious world heritage through close cooperation with enterprises.

For example, the government signed an agreement with the Kunming-based Dingye Group in 2002, which promised to invest 500 million yuan in protecting the 13-sq-km area of the ancient Suhe Town in the suburbs of Lijiang. The company has the right to develop related tourism facilities in adjacent areas, while the core area of the town remains strictly protected.

This government-enterprise cooperation project has yielded a new model for heritage protection, where protection is the top priority and development projects should never harm protection.

The model applied in Suhe town protection was praised by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the National Tourism Administration, who said it sets a good example for world heritage protection.

(China Daily 06/10/2008 page18)


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