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Tongluo Mountain Recovery: From An Abandoned Quarry to Tourist Attraction

Tongluo Mountain used to see active gravel mining activities with abundant limestone resources in Chongqing, Southwest China. In the 1990s, it gathered hundreds of gravel mining enterprises. As a result, large-scale open-pit mining activities caused land damage, vegetation deterioration, and serious ecological degradation. With increasing awareness of ecological problems and the need for progressive solutions, Chongqing closed the Tongluo Mountain quarry from 2010 to 2012. Forty-one pits of various sizes were abandoned in the Tongluo Mountain mining area, causing significant safety risks and serious ecological degradation and bringing great inconvenience to people’s production and life.

Before the recovery (left) and after the recovery (right). (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Methods in ecological restoration

The city has carried out an all-round basic survey, formulated a conceptual plan for the ecological protection and restoration project of mountains, waters, forests, fields, lakes, and grasses, and identified the key problems of low water conservation capacity, low product supply capacity, biodiversity decrease and low rural landscape quality in Tongluo Mountain. It has put forward four major strategies of “comprehensive protection, natural restoration, integrated ecosystem design, and collaborative symbiotic design,” determined the key tasks of ecological conservation, ecological restoration, rational utilization, and science popularization, and carried out the ecological restoration of mines and supporting projects of comprehensive land improvement, land greening, water environment survey, and restoration.

The municipality has combined ecological protection and restoration projects with rural revitalization, industrial development, and improving people’s lives. Ecological restoration is also integrated with the subsequent tourism development of Tongluo Mountain to form a pattern in which ecological restoration and industrial development promote each other.

Local people has made full use of excellent ecological resources after protection and restoration and catalyzed the value realization of ecological products in Tongluo Mountain. Adhering to positioning the “green lung of the city and garden for residents,” Yubei District has built supporting facilities for cultural leisure, health care, elderly care, and rural tourism. Since its trial opening, Tongluo Mountain Scenic Area has been flooded with tourists and received more than 20,000 people during the peak period. It has become an online-sensation scenic spot known as “Small Jiuzhaigou Valley of Chongqing,” with ecological products bringing remarkable benefits.

An aerial view of Tongluoshan Mine Park in Shichuan Town of Yubei District, in SW China’s Chongqing. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

Restoring the ecosystem and enhancing the environment

By the end of 2020, the ecological restoration and management rate of Tongluoshan Mine had reached 70%, which not only increased the forest coverage rate but also attracted wild birds such as owls and pheasants, and wild animals such as wild boars and hares for food and habitat, thus enhancing biodiversity. A better living environment has improved the living conditions of more than 720 villagers, and the quality of people’s lives has been continuously improved.

Tourists have highly praised the ecological landscape of Tongluo Mountain. Since its trial operation on February 9, 2021, it has received a total of 450,000 tourists, with a peak of 26,000 tourists per day and an average of over 5,000 tourists per day during holidays. 

More than 200 people from the surrounding villages get a job or start their own businesses here. Thanks to the transformation of ecological value into income, the per capita income increases by about 20,000 yuan. 

Tongluo Mountain Scenic Area officially opened on June 25, 2021, offering featured services such as a mini-train, sightseeing bus, dining car, and rolling out cultural and creative mine products. It is expected to receive 800,000 tourists throughout the year. The surrounding areas and locals have developed industries, built supporting facilities, and offered services based on the resources of the scenic area, realizing a comprehensive tourism income of about 20 million yuan.

Moreover, Yubei District has made every effort to tap and make good use of the environmental protection and restoration achievements of mountains, waters, forests, fields, lakes, and grasses in Tongluo Mountain. With a planned investment of 2 billion yuan, it will build a demonstration area based on the value of ecological products.

Specifically, it will build Tongluo Mountain into a 5A-rated national tourist attraction integrating ecological restoration, science popularization, education, culture, and well-being, leisure, and vacation, propel the transformation of “beautiful ecology” into a “beautiful economy,” increase farmers’ income, boost rural revitalization, ensure ecological protection while tapping the value of ecological products, and enhance people’s sense of gain, happiness and security derived from the ecological environment.

Tongluoshan National Mine Park (Photo by Huang Wei)

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