Ecological Huairou

By Li Shuya
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Pictorial, September 28, 2014
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Ecology + Economy

Along the Baihe River, travelers will find billboards advertising rural family inns, with some in Baihe North Village. Sitting on the northern bank of Baihe River and surrounded by mountains, Baihe North Village is graced by a pristine river. A 33-year-old, Zhang Jinlin, heads the village. After he retired from the army, Zhang worked as a waiter in a chain restaurant and later became the manager of a retail store. Five years ago, he saw neighboring villages open rural family inns one after another, but only one or two households in his village had the amenities to receive visitors. Zhang became so worried that he decided to run for village head. He won the election. Since then, he has endeavored to lead his villagers in renovating the village.

Today's Baihe North Village is composed of cookie-cutter two-story countryside villas, each covering an area of about 300 square meters with a large courtyard. Along with double-bed rooms, Zhang's household inn boasts Japanese tatami-style rooms and family suites. Decorated with various wind chimes, every room's balcony includes a bench long enough for a family to appreciate the surrounding landscape. Watercolor paintings featuring scenery of Baihe River Valley adorn the walls in the courtyard, in which guests can entertain themselves by chatting, singing, watching movies and playing games.

"Only when the owner is comfortable in the inn will guests be satisfied," opines Zhang. "I wanted to set up a quality rural inn." Zhang worked hard to correct local habits of littering everywhere and called for them to use unified door plates, bedding and menus. During down time after weekends and holidays, he organizes villagers to clean up the entire village to decrease the damage caused by tourists to the environment.

"Villages around Baihe River Valley used to be poverty-stricken," notes Peng Xingdong, a chief official of Mountain Areas Construction Office of Agricultural Committee of Huairou District. In 2013, the average per capita annual income of farmers in nine villages in the area reached 18,000 yuan, a 91-percent increase since 2007. And 80 percent of the income comes from suburban tourism.

According to Peng Xingdong, in 2008, the 2nd Beijing Mountain Area Meeting first proposed the development of a "valley economy," which promotes the establishment of industrial zones featuring agricultural tourism, countryside culture and nature experience. With a unified plan that treats each valley and gully as a unit, the "valley economy" aims to increase farmers' income and accelerate local development. Against this background, Baihe River Valley became a model for others as a pristine example of the development mode, and brought great changes to local villages.

"Public awareness is critical for green projects," declares Peng Tianming, vice president of Huairou Bureau of Landscape and Forestry. "The development mode of the ‘valley economy' has not only greatly improved Huairou's environment but also brought economic benefit to locals. Today, the public not only understands and supports environmental campaigns but is also actively asking for a better environment."

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