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In memory of the Great Wall greatness
(Beijing Weekend)
Updated: 2004-10-25 09:18

The fabulous landscape of the Great Wall attracts millions of visitors every year to pay a pilgrimage to a stone and brick fortress, entrenched with the memory of many dynasties to become a symbol of China.

A section of wild Wall [baidu]
Such interest has been a boon to the tourism industry, taking advantage of worldwide interest in the edifice since China's opening-up policy was put into effect.

Fervent to further promote the image of the Wall, and China, visitors are taken to areas beyond the tourist sections, irrespective of the dangers to themselves, and to ruining the untouched sections of the Great Wall.

Though many regulations have been formulated and passed by respective local governments to protect the Great Wall from human damage, the condition of many sections are already doomed to terminal deterioration.

Visitors' effects

Last month, an accident where a college student became lost while hiking along the 'wild' Great Wall proves that still many people ignore these regulations.

The wild Walls need urgent protection. [baidu]
Found 10 hours later, he was not asked to pay any fine, thanks to his suffering so long missing in the mountains.

"Sometimes, we also climb on the natural sections of Great Wall," said Hui Jie, an organizer at Beijing Hikers, a private agency for day and weekend outings to the Wall.

"Foreigners enjoy the wild parts of the Great Wall more than those that have been rebuilt and cater for tourists, like Badaling and Mutianyu."

Looking over the panorama across the wild sections of the Great Wall shows how it has integrated itself as part of the landscape, amazing walkers with the path it traverses over the hills, defying the possibility of its being constructed in the first place.

On asked if she and other hikers knew of the regulations in place to protect the Great Wall, Hui Jie stated that most foreigners are aware of the protection urgency.

"We do our best not to walk on the Wall and hike along its sides."

Beijing Hikers is just one of many agencies earning an income using the charm of the wild Great Wall. The Beijing International Great Wall Walking Competition is one approved event held annually.

Thousands of people from around the globe attend the renowned competition, assured that sponsors have received the go-ahead from related authorities.

Sacrifice to development

Known among the Chinese by its full name, Wan-li Great Wall, or Ten-Thousand-li Great Wall (10,000 li equal 5,000 km), the total length of the Great Wall is as long as 6,400 kilometres, crossing 17 provinces in northern China.

In contrast, the sections rebuilt and well protected by government legislation can be counted on hands.

In Beijing, only Badaling, Mutianyu, and Simatai are the visiting sites monitored by government-paid staff. While the wild sections are protected by regulations, cordoning off the area is difficult, therefore, easily accessible by anyone.

According to some press, the wild Great Wall is also in danger of modern advancement, at the mercy of highways in northwest China's Ningxia, Shaanxi, and Gansu.

In Shaanxi Province, the ancient wall is in an advanced state of disrepair, one-third of the structure built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) already lost forever.

Destruction caused by transportation and energy projects has grown worse in recent years.

Up to 40 openings in the Shaanxi section of the Great Wall have been breached by roads, with Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region not far behind. A section of the wall in Linhe Town, Ningwu City, has been cut into three parts to make way for roads.

Farmers' invasion

Farmers are not immune to harming the Great Wall. Growing crops in fields adjacent to the wall. Irrigation, chemical fertilizers and pesticides hasten the damage of Great Wall. Some farmers even raise livestock in the Wall's beacon towers. Bricks are pried out by farmers from the wild Great Wall to build their own houses.

Government efforts

Many regulations to protect the Great Wall have been formulated across different government levels. In August 2003, Beijing Municipal Government passed the Great Wall Protection Measures, the first law-enforceable regulations issued on the Wall's protection.

According to the measures, climbing the wild Great Wall is forbidden. Any damage to the Great Wall will be fined, ranging from 500 yuan (US$60) to 30,000 yuan (US$3,700).

Seminars have been held every year by the government to find better ways to protect the Great Wall.

"The government should find more efficient and effective ways of instigating the Wall's protection," said Luo Zhewen, president of the Association of Great Wall Protection, an expert in the field.

"We need to tell the whole of society to protect the Great Wall and to end its human destruction," Luo said. "Boards with words 'No walking on Great Wall' should be placed along different sections except those officially opened for the public."

"Educational material on Great Wall protection should be given to every family along the Ten-thousand-li Great Wall," Luo said.

What you can do

On April 1998,William Lindesay from Britain organized the first cleanup day on the Great Wall of China.

Lindesay and other participants spent several hours picking up garbage thrown off the Wall by tourists at the Jinshanling section, which attracted the interest of Chinese media.

Now one of the founders of International Friends of the Great Wall, they give these suggestions to all people who visit the Great Wall:

l Take your own garbage home

l Do not cross farmers' land - keep to paths.

l Do not shout unless it's an emergency.

l Do not smoke or let off fireworks.

l Carry your belongings in a backpack and avoid using plastic bags.

l Do not damage trees, flowers or plants.

l If you need to relieve yourself, cover the effluent with soil.

l If you have space, take some litter left by others.

l Introduce others you meet on the mountains with these guidelines.

l Keeping the wilderness wild relies on you being civilized!

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