China's first national park, the Potatso National Park, was inaugurated on Thursday in Shangri-La, an area famous for its natural beauty in the southwest province of Yunnan.
The 2,000 square-km national park covers 17 percent of Diqing, an autonomous prefecture mainly inhabited by Tibetans. Its centerpiece sceneries are crystal-clear lakes, undulating mountains and gurgling streams.
The local government started mapping out the park since early last year and has spent more than 200 million yuan (US$26.3 million) on bolstering ecological tourism in the well-preserved national park.
"By establishing the Potatso national park, China has taken the first step in blending tourism development with nature protection, " said Song Yinxiu, head of the park's administrative bureau.
Now about 69 km of blacktop roads have been built in two major scenic spots, the Shudu Lake and Bita Lake, in Potatso. The roads also serve as fire separation stripes.
Plank roads stretch 10 km along the mirror-like lakes to protect the grasslands.
Seven solar-energy powered public toilets and shuttle buses consuming clean energy are also used in the park to minimize pollution.
During the past ten months of trial operational, the national park received 600,000 visitors. More than half of the revenue from ticket sales went to environment protection.
The world's first national park, Yellow Stone National Park, was established in the United States in 1872. Now there are more than 9,800 national parks around the world.
(Xinhua News Agency June 22, 2007)