China aims to build its own Yellowstone on Tibetan plateau
The remotest corner of the world
Ringed by the world's tallest mountain ranges, the region long known as ``the rooftop of the world'' is now in the crosshairs of China's latest modernization push, marked by multiplying skyscrapers and expanding high-speed rail lines.
The Yellowstone 2.0 project
While construction continues at a frenzied pace elsewhere on the Tibetan plateau, the government already has stopped issuing mining and hydropower permits in this region.
Safeguarding the biodiversity
The area also is home to such iconic and threatened species as the snow leopard and Chinese mountain cat, and encompasses the headwaters of three of Asia's great waterways: the Yangtze, Yellow and Mekong rivers.
The ambition to create a unified park system represents ``a new and serious effort to safeguard China's biodiversity and natural heritage,'' Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm says.
The question of tourism, livelihood, cultures looms
``China has a dense population and a long history,'' Zhu says. ``One of the unique features of China's national parks is that they have local people living either inside or nearby.''
China has previously undertaken vast resettlement programs to clear land for large infrastructure projects such as Three Gorges Dam, which left many farmers in new homes without suitable agricultural fields or access to other livelihoods.
Steps further being taken
The ``One Family, One Ranger'' program hires one person per family for 1,800 yuan a month ($255) to perform such tasks as collecting trash and monitoring for poaching.
``Our religion is connected with wild animals, because wild animals have a consciousness and can feel love and compassion,'' says a Tibetan herder. He is grateful for the additional income from the ranger program, but hopes his main livelihood won't be impeded _ and that he won't eventually be forced to leave.
The road ahead
In contrast, the national parks system is being designed from the ground-up to incorporate global best practices and new science.
The first parks to be formally incorporated into China's national park system will showcase the country's vast and varied landscapes and ecosystems _ from the granite and sandstone cliffs of Wuyishan in eastern China to the lush forests of southwestern Sichuan province, home to giant pandas, to the boreal forests of northeastern China, where endangered Siberian tigers roam.