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National Ecological Cultural Village Grows from Abandoned Mine

By XINYI LIICHONGQING|May 13,2022

In May, a century-old camphor tree flourishes at Dawo Community in Fengjie County, Chongqing. Standing under the tree, you will admire the picturesque scenery with valleys surrounding the mountains like jade belts.

It is hard to imagine that seven years ago, the tree was almost the only vegetation in the 10-square-kilometer area; no fish or shrimp could be found in the unpleasantly reddish-yellow rivers.

The current Dawo Community (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Previous environmental damage

Dawo Community is made up of the former site of Sichuan’s state-owned No. 1 Sulphur Factory and Dawo Village. With an average altitude of more than 1,000 meters, it is more than 60 kilometers away from the seat of Fengjie County. Founded in 1951, the factory boasted a brilliant history. In its heyday, the annual output of sulfur reached 7,197 tons, generating tax revenue of more than 11 million yuan, accounting for one-third of the county’s GDP.

The Dawo Community in the past (Photo provided to iChongqing)

As a result of its unchecked development, the land was eroded by sulfur all year round, aggravating soil acidification and rocky desertification. Exhaust gas, effluent, and waste were discharged indiscriminately during sulfur refining so that not a single grain was reaped in the neighborhood. The mining of pyrite and other mineral resources seriously destroyed the local ecological environment, and the core area of the factory turned out to be a piece of barren, scorched earth.

The Dawo Community in the past (Photo provided to iChongqing)

In order to protect the ecological environment of the Three Gorges Reservoir Area, the factory was shut down in 2015 according to the relevant policies. However, the problem remained to be solved.

Not even a blade of grass grows on the eroded land, let alone crops. Due to the deterioration of the ecological environment, the frequent landslides and debris flow threatened the housing safety of 148 people from 37 households in the community.

The Dawo Community in the past (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Over 90% of forest coverage rate

How would the community respond to the deteriorating environment?

The current Dawo Community (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Fortuitously, Dawo villagers came up with the idea of developing tourism based on wind power generation. To this end, changing the barren environment was made the primary object. In 2015, they started comprehensive treatment of rocky desertification through spontaneous recovery, aerial reforestation, and artificial afforestation. The woodland there has reached more than 267 hectares.

Nevertheless, the process was painstaking. The soil was so acidified that saplings could not survive at all. The villagers had to dig away the topsoil and cover the land with soil they carried on their backs and shoulders from other areas before planting trees.

Thanks to their joint efforts, the forest coverage rate of the community has exceeded 90%.

Tourism development

While restoring the environment, the community has continuously improved the infrastructure.

Considering the high sulfur content of the water source in the mining area, the local government organized the installation of 10-kilometer drinking water pipes in Jinfeng Mountain, which is 1,958 meters high, and built waterworks in the community.

Moreover, the community also constructed new houses for 100 relocated households.

The current Dawo Community (Photo provided to iChongqing)

In recent years, the community has focused on integrated tourism by creating Wangyue Lake, Dolphin Bay, Shen Gui Wen Tian, Rainbow Cave, and other scenic spots by leveraging the former site of the factory and the local unique natural scenery. It was rated as a national 2A-class tourist attraction in 2017 and awarded the titles of National Ecological Cultural Village and Chongqing’s Green Demonstration Village in 2018.

With 13 agritainment providers and over 200 tourism workers, the community welcomes more than 200,000 tourists per year, recording more than 7 million yuan annually. The barren area has been transformed into a nest for residents.

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