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South China county has high hopes for heritage list

English.news.cn   2013-08-02 13:33:20            

NANNING, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in a south China county known for its otherworldly karst landscape are sparing no efforts to make the World Heritage List, but challenges remain in the way.

The government of Huanjiang County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has been working hard to get ready for an evaluation after its karst landscape, as well as that of Guilin, were selected as nominees for the 2013 UNESCO World Heritage List in June 2012.

Located in the southeastern part of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, Huanjiang is home to the Maonan ethnic group in China, as well as massive karst deposits and two nature reserves.

The vast karst landscape has great biodiversity and covers a total area of 11,559 hectares.

After visiting the karst landscape in Huanjiang, Paul Williams, a professor from the University of Auckland and an expert in karst hydrology, said that the landscape in Huanjiang is quite distinctive and that its value is beyond doubt.

"Now it all boils down to the ecological integrity here, which is yet to be determined," he said.

If Huanjiang makes the list, it could greatly boost the small county's reputation around the world, thus allowing it to become an international tourism destination, said Huang Rongbiao, secretary of the county's Communist Party of China (CPC) committee.

"It would speed up the all-around development of Huanjiang," he said.

However, experts argue that it will take a good amount of work for Huanjiang to pass the evaluation conducted by experts from the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The evaluation will take place in August.

The county is rich in non-ferrous metal resources, with more than 80 percent of its industrial output value and over 60 percent of its fiscal revenues depending on the resources, said Wei Hanqing, director of Huanjiang's tourism bureau.

However, rampant exploitation has resulted in heavy metal pollution in local mining areas, farmland and rivers, posing a serious threat to the livelihoods of Huanjiang's farmers.

In accordance with IUCN requirements, those who live in an area that is nominated for the list should live in harmony with their environment. The existing pollution in Huanjiang will therefore harm its chances to make the list.

In addition, the application process will take a large amount of money. Huanjiang's government has only managed to collect about 28 million yuan (4.6 million U.S. dollars), far less than the amount paid for previous applications.

To boost the county's chances of success, the local government is now working to clean up the environment.

So far, 13 local companies that have discharged pollutants and failed to control the pollution have been shut down, while two mining companies have also been closed by the government.

"We just rejected a project that would tap zinc resources in Huanjiang because it would inevitably hurt the environment," Huang said.

Excessive grazing and tree-felling have been banned, substandard housing has been demolished and roads are being extended, according to Huang.

Huang added that the nomination has also helped enhance the protection of scarce natural resources.

The county government is making every effort to prepare transportation and accommodation facilities while attracting investment, as authorities are seizing the opportunity to push the development of the local tourism industry, according to Huang.

Huang said his government is making plans to develop tourist attractions that focus on the Maonan ethnic group.

"The nomination is a great form of encouragement for people in Huanjiang. We will try our best to make our county a better place and possibly an international resort for people from all over the world," he said.

Editor: Yang Lina
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