Thursday, June 21, 2007

Anji, Home of Bamboo

ANJI County in northwestern Zhejiang Province is synonymous with bamboo, containing as it does 60,000 hectares of bamboo groves. It has been designated a pilot county for ecological construction. Within its boundaries are mountains and gullies, lush with forests and vegetation. The air is fresh and the river water is crystal clear.
Anji is only 65 kilometers from Hangzhou. During the 1990s, however, it took more than two hours to travel to Hangzhou by bus. Poor transportation isolated Anji from the outside world, and for many years its economy remained underdeveloped.
From 1997 to 2000, Anji built highways to Hangzhou and Huzhou, and from 2000 to 2002, highways connecting to the National Highway 318 were constructed. The provincial highways within its boundary were also widened, forming a transportation network. Now the 100-km high-class highway traversing the entire boundary has been completed, and it takes less than three hours to reach Shanghai, Nanjing or Suzhou, and less than one hour to get to Hangzhou and Huzhou. Cashing in on the progress, the Anji people have taken the sustainable development road by developing ecology-friendly agriculture, industry and tourism, and building an ecology-friendly city.
Ecological Tour
A bamboo shoots workshop.
The ecological tour area covers one-tenth of the county's total area.
Anji produces 12 million commercial bamboo poles annually, ranking first nationwide. It also has China's largest bamboo nursery. The Anji Bamboo Garden is acknowledged by scholars within and outside China as containing the widest variety of bamboo to be found. It was formerly a bamboo grove research base that combined scientific research with teaching, and has received many foreign experts and scholars and officials from the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan.
The Anji people are highly aware and appreciative of their beautiful environment. At the Longwang (Dragon King) Mountain Nature Reserve, lies the source of the Huangpu River, and the 800-hectare primeval forest there contains numerous flora and fauna under national protection. The Huadong Pumping Storage Power Station, located in the Tianhuangping Scenic Area, is the largest in Asia and second largest worldwide. It blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment, and is consequently a China industrial tour demonstration project.
In 2001, Anji received 1.4 million tourists, earning it 310 million yuan, which made up 6.1 percent of the county's GDP. A feasibility plan recently commenced at the 20-square-kilometer British designed Huxi Ecological Garden. Qian Kunfang, county magistrate, says, "Though ours is a mountainous county, we nevertheless receive large numbers of visitors, either sightseeing or seeking to invest, every day. Anji's mountains, waters and pure air are now valuable commodities."
Ecology-Friendly Industries
A bamboo village.
When developing ecological tourism, the local people naturally gravitate towards ecology-friendly agriculture and industry. By taking advantage of their favorable environment and climate, they are able to develop pollution-free green products, such as bamboo shoots, tea, alpine vegetables, and flowers. Production bases for green products have been opened, and specialized markets for agricultural products and comprehensive wholesale markets built. In order further to supplement ecological tourism, agricultural sightseeing gardens that provide leisure activities have also been constructed.
Pollution-free products currently make up 40 percent of the market, and the per capita income of farmers has increased steadily, from 3,708 yuan in 1998 to 4,556 yuan in 2001. Anji white tea, grown nowhere else in the country, sells for a price higher than the famous Dragon Well tea.
Chain production is a characteristic of Anji's industry. Bamboo, for instance, can be made into food, handicrafts, and building materials, and its remnants can also be utilized. Anji products are now exported to more than 20 countries and regions, and about one-fourth of the county's gross output value of agriculture and industry comes from bamboo-related industries.
Anji's fine ecological environment has attracted large numbers of investors. In 2001 alone, over US $50 million in foreign investment was absorbed. But the local government is strict about protecting its environment, and no projects are permitted that incur the slightest possibility of pollution.
Taking full advantage of its resources and developing an ecology-friendly economy, Anji County has accomplished a "win-win" mode, both in economic development and environmental protection. The people of Anji are striving to make it the "back garden" of big cities.

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