Full Text: Ecological Progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

The State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China published a white paper titled Ecological Progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau on Wednesday.

China SCIOUpdated: July 18, 2018

VI. A Developing Culture That Values Ecological Awareness

With advances in ecological conservation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, there has been a profound change in how people think and live. It has become widely recognized that protecting the environment means protecting our common home, with growing confidence in our eco-culture.

Ecological awareness is taking root.

To promote ecological progress on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the relevant provinces and autonomous regions have taken active measures to increase public awareness of eco-conservation, such as strengthening public campaigns on environmental protection, building cultural infrastructure, organizing education and training sessions, encouraging public participation, rewarding role models, and introducing eco-themed holidays. In the past, people would exhaust their natural environment for food and wealth, but now they are beginning to understand that green mountains and clear water, and even snow and ice, are valuable assets that represent our true wealth. The idea of respecting nature, following nature's law, and protecting nature has become popular.

During the 12th Five-year Plan period, Tibet Autonomous Region built a series of key public cultural facilities, and initiated such programs as cultural and sports facilities, movie circuits, village libraries, sharing village-level broadcasting resource, upgrading village clinic equipment, and solar lighting for public use. During the period, 1,616 cultural plazas were opened in Tibet, which now boasts an extensive network of cultural facilities, including public arts galleries at the prefecture/city level, cultural centers at the county/district level, Xinhua bookstores, township cultural stations, and village libraries. The autonomous region has also carried out "energy-conserving week" and "low-carbon day" campaigns to enhance the public's awareness of environmental protection, which has also become an important basis for evaluating the performance of villages, towns, and cities when selecting role models in this regard. Emphasizing the importance of the environment, Lhasa City is striving to improve its urban environment; it encourages the public, with families as units, to take part in related community activities, and organizes volunteers to clean the streets and protect the natural ecology. Similar campaigns have also been rolled out in farming and pastoral areas, where villagers and residents are grouped as volunteers to keep their villages clean, plant trees, and protect water sources and wildlife.

Gannan Prefecture in Gansu Province is working to be a model area of ecological conservation by enacting strict measures on water source protection, damage compensation and accountability. Much is being done to improve the environmental management and ecological remediation systems, and strengthen the guiding role of ecological progress. To enhance public awareness of environmental protection, the prefecture has included eco-education in the online study materials for its officials. It has also compiled various eco-education readings to distribute to elementary and secondary school students, Party and government officials, and farmers and herdsmen, opened a website on ecological education, aired eco-themed public-service advertisements, pushed text messages to mobile phones, and held writing contests on conservation.

Qinghai Province has issued the Opinions on Promoting Green Lifestyles in Qinghai, and held major campaigns to clean the Sanjiangyuan area and protect the environment of Qinghai Lake. The government encourages the public to abandon outdated habits and embrace new and green lifestyles, enhance ecological awareness, and correctly understand the interdependent relationship between good ecology and sound development.

Green lifestyle is bedding in.

As ecological awareness spreads on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, fewer farmers and herdsmen keep livestock in their houses or burn firewood and dung for heating. Green housing, green energy, living on clean energy, and green travel have become increasingly popular lifestyle habits.

On the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, new energy is being used for a diversity of purposes. Solar energy and other new energy have been widely applied in heating, cooking, lighting, irrigation, telecommunications, and other areas of daily life and work. In Tibet, passive solar housing is one of the first solar technologies introduced – it first appeared in Ali, Naqu and Lhasa in the 1980s. In addition to providing heating in winter, solar housing offers a better home environment and raises people's living standards. Energy conservation and environmental protection have become important factors for farmers and herdsmen on the Plateau to consider when they build houses. By the end of 2017 clean energy – mainly water power, solar energy and biogas – contributed 87 percent of the total installed capacity of electricity in Tibet Autonomous Region. There were more than 400,000 solar stoves in use, with solar water heating systems covering 450,000 sq m of floor space and passive solar housing some 420,000 sq m. All of this is reducing the public's reliance on traditional fuels.

In Qinghai, provincial-level programs have been initiated in farming and pastoral areas to promote passive solar housing, solar stoves, solar water heaters, solar batteries, and household wind turbines, and to replace the burning of coal and dung with electricity for heating. By the end of 2017, support from the province had resulted in the use of 102,200 solar stoves, 12,800 solar water heaters, and 9,200 sets of solar batteries; 13,100 passive solar housing units had been built as demonstration projects, totaling 1,305,000 sq m. Electric and photovoltaic heating have gradually replaced dung and coal-burning, contributing to reduced pollutant emissions, a better home environment, and higher living standards. This has also reined in excess exploitation of grasslands, beneficial to the remediation and improvement of the grassland ecosystem.

In villages on the Plateau, a number of measures have been taken to improve the environment. By building modern-standard toilets, livestock pens, and housing, and undertaking domestic garbage collection and disposal, domestic wastewater collection and treatment, drinking water source protection, efficient crop stalk utilization, noise abatement, and human and livestock feces pollution control, the local governments have effectively addressed such problems as random dumping of garbage, illegal construction or extension of houses, unauthorized mining, and open-air burning of crop stalks. People on the Plateau now enjoy better housing, drinking water and transport, and a clean environment and convenient facilities.

In 2017, shared bicycle services entered Lhasa. These bicycles quickly became a favored choice for the locals when they needed to go somewhere, adding flavor to the city's charms. In Lhasa, Xining and other high-altitude cities, the number of new-energy vehicles keeps increasing; in core protection areas such as the Qomolangma and Napa Lake transport services are provided by new-energy vehicles. Green transport and tourism have become the preferred options of the public.

Confidence in the ecological culture is getting enhanced.

The beauty of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, its sound ecological base, and the progress made in conservation have significantly boosted local people's confidence in their ecological culture. Eco-themed public campaigns in villages, on campus and in communities have breathed fresh air into the people's lives and lifted their spirit. People are increasingly active in joining ecological efforts, and are more content with life and have a greater sense of gain. They are proud of the ice and snow as much as the green mountains and clear water.

By 2017, 10 counties, 173 towns and townships, and 1,924 villages in Tibet had been designated as models of eco-preservation at the provincial level. Bayi District in Nyingchi City became one of the first state-level model counties for ecological progress. In Qinghai, 1,200 villages were honored "beautiful plateau villages", and Xining became a state-level forest city. In Aba Prefecture, Sichuan Province, one county was selected as the provincial eco-progress model, 16 towns were commended as eco-progress models at state level, 50 towns and 30 villages at provincial level. In Deqen Prefecture of Yunnan, 45 eco-progress villages have been selected as eco-progress models at prefectural level. In Gannan Prefecture of Gansu Province, the figures were two towns and 14 villages at national level, and 14 towns and 11 villages at provincial level. These achievements have not only improved people's living conditions and daily life, but also enhanced their commitment to safeguarding the serenity of the Plateau.

In 2017, at the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee, Hol Xil of Qinghai Province was included in UNESCO's World Heritage List, making it China's largest and highest natural heritage site. In its assessment report, the World Conservation Union took note of Hol Xil's expansive natural beauty – free of human activity – describing it as "an amazing scene to behold". Hol Xil's inclusion in the World Heritage List has succeeded in raising public awareness of nature and wildlife, further boosting their sense of responsibility and pride in ecological conservation.

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