YUSHU, QINGHAI, March 11 (Xinhua) - China is considering establishing a national park in the Sanjiangyuan (Sources of Three Rivers) Area to protect the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang (Mekong) rivers.
A meeting of the Central Leading Group for Reform at the end of 2015 decided to upgrade the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve, established in 2000 in northwest China's Qinghai Province, into a national park managed by the central government.
The Sanjiangyuan National Park will cover 123,100 square kilometers. The Yangtze River area of the park alone will span 90,300 square kilometers including 15 villages and more than 20,000 people. Local people will remain in the park, following their traditional way of life, said Lyu Yuan, a spokesman for Yushu city's environment protection office.
The headwaters of the Yangtze River will account for about 70 percent of the national park, including the Tuotuo, the Tongtian rivers and the Hol Xil nature reserve, through which water from the glaciers of Tanggula Mountains flows into the Yangtze River.
The park will also be rich in wildlife, including some endangered species such as Tibetan antelope and snow leopard.
The park is mostly a mechanism of zoning and management. There will not be much visible barriers other than a few signs to separate the buffer zones and core conservation areas.
President Xi Jinping spoke about the park to lawmakers from Qinghai on Thursday. He also called for more to be done to tackle poverty in the ethnic Tibetan region. The government plans to hire at least one member of each family as salaried ranger.
Some tourism and educational projects will be allowed on the edges of the park. The buffer zone allows only approved scientific research. The core area strictly bans any activities, Lyu said.
Draft plans are expected to be approved in March.
In addition to the national park, the Qinghai provincial government is working on four more wetland parks, approved by the State Forestry Administration in January.
About 1,000 herders will be hired as rangers, a key measure to improve the environment in the new parks. Each ranger will be paid 1,800 yuan a month to watch out for miners, polluters and hunters; monitor wildlife and take care of injured animals, said Zheng Guiyun, a spokeswoman with the provincial wetland office.
One of the new parks will be along the Dequyuan River, part of the headwaters of Yangtze River in Yushu. Although the Dequyuan Wetland Park is still at the planning stage, an existing wetland park provides insight on how it will work.
The Batang River Wetland Park, a 45-minute drive from Yushu City, covers more than 12,000 hectares. Yushu's airport lies in the middle of small lakes and rivers.
The government spent about 118 million yuan on rehabilitation, conservation centers, monitoring and ranger stations in Batang.
Qingran, chief of Upper Batang River Village, leads a team of six rangers. "Before we rarely saw any wild animals in the area, but now we see them very often."
In recent years, bears have barged into villagers' homes after sugar, Yak butter and salad oil. Bears are visiting more frequently because they meet no resistance from the villagers who are not to harm animals.
"We just move to a relative or neighbor's home to sleep it out and apply for government compensation later," Qingran said.
Global warming and human activity have caused the wetlands to shrink and has increased desertification. According to the SFA, around 9 percent of China's wetland has disappeared, been converted to farmland or used for infrastructure in the past decade.
Qinghai has more than eight million hectares of wetland, more than any other province. Wetlands play an important role in water purification, flood control and maintaining biodiversity.
WORLD NATURE HERITAGE
Applying for world nature heritage status in 2017 will be good for the Hol Xil nature reserve, which will be contained within the new national park.
World nature heritage status will make people in Sanjiangyuan more dedicated to protecting the environment, said Buzhou, head of the reserve.
Staff of the reserve are making their uttermost efforts in trying to meet the standards of a world nature reserve, a status Hol Xil aims to achieve in 2017, Buzhou said.
The reserve has sixty staff working in extreme conditions in China' s largest wilderness, Buzhou added, and more rangers and workers will be needed to meet UNESCO criteria.
Hol Xil, which means "a beautiful young woman" in Mongolian, is an inhospitable area of 45,000 square kilometers, at an average altitude of 4,600 meters.
The area was beset by poachers in the 1980s, who hunted Tibetan antelopes for their hide, which was made into luxury shahtoosh shawls. Poaching caused the antelope population to plunge from 200,000 to less than 20,000 in the late 20th century.
The nature reserve was established in 1997. No illegal poaching has been detected for nine years and the antelope population has been restored to 60,000.