China is the country with the richest biodiversity in the Northern hemisphere and is one of the 18 hotspot countries in the world. It covers seven climatic zones and has a wide variety of habitats which are home to an eighth of all species on Earth. Despite efforts to implement international agreements, in which China is a stakeholder, it continues to face a high loss rate for its terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity due to the negative environmental impacts of its growth model over the past decades. The Chinese authorities are now aware of these negative impacts, including at global level, and in order to stem the deterioration of both its terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity (Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15), have set ambitious targets to lead the country onto the “ecological civilization” path.
Tiantangzhai Town is located in the heart of the Dabieshan Mountains, one of the main mountain ranges in Central China which separates the watersheds of the Yangtsé River and Huai River. The area is located on a geological base which dates back 1.8 billion years and is home to some of the oldest plant species in the world. It is also part of the last primary forest in Eastern China. The subtropical forest there is home to rare biodiversity (1,881 plant species and 185 animal species, including 27 listed on the national Red List of Threatened Species, with the most endangered and emblematic being the leopard and giant salamander).
The region was the base for the guerrilla movement led by Deng Xiaoping and is recognized for its historical contribution to the Red Army’s success in the Chinese revolution. It does, however, remain a relatively poor and underdeveloped region. The Chinese authorities have consequently launched a process for opening-up (highway network, high-speed train lines) and tourism development, the main driver for the municipality’s economic growth. The project is based on three components:
- Restoration, conservation and development of biodiversity;
- Strengthening of scientific knowledge and ecological monitoring;
- Development of ecotourism an environmental education.
The project will contribute to protecting and developing Tiantangzhai’s natural and cultural resources, while creating jobs thanks to the development of ecotourism. The project, by providing effective sanitation solutions and creating alternative and better-paid job opportunities, will also improve living conditions for local populations. Finally, the project will have a positive impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to a reduction estimated ex ante at 37,700 t CO2 a year.
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