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First wetland park welcomes residents
By Shao Xiaoyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-05 05:57

HANGZHOU: The Xixi Wetland Park - touted as China's first such wetlands site for the public to enjoy - has opened in Hangzhou, capital city of East China's Zhejiang Province.

The park welcomed visitors during the May Day Holiday for the first time.

For Shen Miaoquan, journeying back to the Xixi area was an emotional day.

Yet Shen said he felt more excited than anything upon arriving back at the place he once lived for nearly 50 years before leaving in 2004 with thousands of other residents so the park could be built.

"This is what Xixi Wetland should be like," the former villager said.

"I find the waters have become clearer, and there are more trees along the shores. And there is no more garbage around."

Shen was one of the some 3,000 people to visit the Xixi Wetland Park on its opening day on May 1.

The daily number of visitors to the site is being limited to that number to better protect its ecological integrity, said Huang Chunlei, general director of the project.

Huang told China Daily the project was launched in September 2003 and is expected to reclaim an area of 10.08 square kilometres of wetlands by 2007.

"It involves renewing natural and historical wetlands that have been lost or degraded, and returning some of these ecosystems to their approximate pre-disturbed conditions," said Huang.

A system of drains has been built in the wetlands and all livestock farms that previously discharged excrement and sewage into wetland waters have been closed, Wang said.

Like the former villager Shen, about 624 households have been relocated to other areas to make way for the new zone in the first phase of the wetlands reclamation.

Moreover, more than 270 biological species have been introduced to heal damaged natural systems, Huang said.

The Xixi Wetland, dubbed as "Hangzhou's kidney," is located on the western outskirts of the city.

It boasts great biodiversity, providing habitats to many unique plant and animal species, including 89 birds varieties and many kinds of plants in a cramped city of skyscrapers.

The wetlands used to rank as a famous scenic spot along with the West Lake in ancient times.

However, the ecological and cultural treasures that made Xixi Wetland unique in the past were in danger of being lost forever, due to the result of urban expansion and human activity.

Chen Kelin, an expert from the Wetlands International Organization, said the Xixi Wetland Park has set a good example on striking a balance between environmental protection and tourism for the country's wetlands' protection.

"We should make use of wetlands' economic value associated with recreational and commercial functions, while allowing their natural functions to be reclaimed," said Chen.

Through the opening of the park, people will grow to understand the importance of wetlands conservation and will be more familiar with the interesting wetlands wildlife, Chen added.

So far, 353 wetlands areas have been listed as reserves in China.

The country has preserved 38.48 million hectares of wetlands resources, the largest in Asia and fourth largest in the world.

(China Daily 05/05/2005 page2)

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