Hangzhou: Every day, thousands of tourists board a train in a small village in east China’s Zhejiang Province for a sight-seeing trip that takes them to various household-run plantations.
While offering visitors an exhilarating scenery, Lujia Village invariably impresses them with its achievements in eco-protection. Garbage sorting is extensively practiced in the village, which also has an advanced sewage purification system.
“If it were not for President Xi Jinping’s vision of ecological protection, the environment of my hometown would have never undergone tremendous changes,” said Qiu Liqin, a resident of Lujia Village, located in Anji County. Interestingly, the county was a shooting location of Oscar-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Qiu was referring to Xi’s famous line, “Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets,” which was envisioned 15 years ago in Anji and has become a guiding principle for green development in her village and China at large.
During the 1980s and 90s, like many places in China, Anji went through a period of breakneck economic development pursued at all costs.
In Yucun Village, Anji’s largest limestone mining area, villagers enriched themselves by processing limestone into cement, and the annual income of the village once exceeded 3 million yuan (about 428,000 U.S. dollars).
“At that time, smoke from the cement factories overcast the entire village all year round, and all the bamboo leaves on the mountains had been blackened,” recalled Hu Jiaxing, a villager from Yucun. “Living in such an environment for a long time, many villagers couldn’t help feeling gloomy.”
Aerial photo taken on June 8, 2017 shows the scenery of Yucun Village of Anji City, east China’s Zhejiang Province.(Xinhua/Zhang Cheng)
By the early 2000s, the villagers finally made up their mind to shut down the mining industry and cement factories in a last-ditch attempt to save the deteriorating environment.
In June 2003, Xi, the then secretary of the Zhejiang provincial committee of the Communist Party of China, initiated a province-wide rural green revival program to improve the eco-environment of villages and rural residents’ quality of life.
In an inspection tour to Yucun in August 2005, Xi spoke highly of the village’s decision to pursue green development, and put forward the concept that “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.”
After the visit, Xi expounded the concept in a newspaper article. “We pursue the harmony of humans and nature, as well as that of the economy and society. To put it plainly, we want lucid waters and lush mountains. We also want mountains of gold and silver,” he wrote.
Taking Xi’s concept as guidance, Anji transformed itself into a model county in environmental protection, becoming China’s first county-level city to win the “Scroll of Honor” award of the United Nations Human Settlements Program.
The rural green revival program bore fruit. By the end of 2017, 97 percent of the villages in Zhejiang had reached the target of transforming polluted waterways into clean and drinkable rivers through water management, waste management, and recycling.
China’s efforts to promote green development have also earned global recognition. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) decided to promote China’s philosophy of ecological progress in February 2013 and released a report on China’s strategies and practices in the field in 2016.
In 2018, Zhejiang’s rural green revival program won the UNEP’s Champions of the Earth award. The Saihanba afforestation project in the country’s north and public welfare platform Alipay Ant Forest also won the UN’s top environment honor in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
A study in 2019 using data from NASA satellites showed that China had contributed to at least 25 percent of the increase in the global green leaf area since the early 2000s, ranking first in the world.
While realizing a balanced growth of economic development and ecological restoration, China has also been sharing its useful experiences in eco-protection with other countries.
Inspired by the innovative move of Alipay Ant Forest in ecological restoration, the Philippines’ leading mobile wallet GCash introduced GCash Forest on its app last year, aiming to mitigate deforestation in the country.
In Kenya, Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway succeeded in accommodating wildlife needs, thus causing minimal interference to the animals.
In Bali, Indonesia, China Huadian Corporation has overcome the challenge of building and operating a coal-fired power plant in a world-class tourist destination, by keeping the emission of sulfur dioxide, hydroxide and dust close to zero, and strictly handling industrial and domestic water discharge.
Erik Solheim, former UN Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UNEP, had visited Zhejiang several times and was impressed by the change.
“Beautiful Zhejiang presents the future of China and the world, by tackling pollution with innovative solutions,” said Solheim during a trip in 2018.
“I think some of these main slogans in China like ‘Ecological Civilization,’ ‘Beautiful China’ and ‘Green is Gold,’ is what the world needs to do now,” he said.