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Villages profit from lucid waters, lush mountains

By ZHUANG QIANGE| China Daily| Updated: February 1, 2024 L M S


Visitors enjoy the beautiful scenery at Tongji weir in Lishui, Zhejiang province, in September. [ZHOU XUEJUN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Home to lucid waters and lush mountain ranges, the Ancient Weir-Home of Painting (Guyan Huaxiang) scenic area in Lishui, a prefecture-level city in Zhejiang province, attracts some 1.9 million visitors a year.

In villages around the scenic area, where over 150 homestays employing 2,200 local residents thrive in business, the average annual income of villagers has exceeded 43,000 yuan ($5,890).

However, many years ago, the riverside area was swarming with wood-processing plants that brought in their wake severe environmental damage.

Yang Yaowei, 63, a carpenter who learned the craft from his father, relied on the nearby mountains for his income in the initial years after the country's opening-up process was unveiled.

Through wood cutting and processing, he became one of the first group of people to get rich after he started his own wood processing factory.

His peers soon followed suit, transporting various types of furniture from the area to regions across the country.

By 2015, amid the noise of roaring machines and airborne dust, the lush green mountains and clear waters of yore became just a memory for people in the village.

"The harsh situation forced us to make a choice — sticking to our old pollution-prone profession or developing tourism to enrich ourselves," Yang said, recalling that he decided to transform his factory in 2016.

His son Yang Xiangjun, 38, upgraded the plant into a wood product-themed homestay, earning some 20,000 yuan monthly, buoyed by the village's scenic beauty.

"The transformation brought us booming business and growing income, showcasing the idea that green mountains and clear waters are equal to mountains of gold and silver," he said.

Currently, the scenic spot has become a typical model in Zhejiang for practicing the concept that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets".

Besides developing the three core villages at the center, the scenic spot also encouraged surrounding villages to develop their own unique features. Now, Shezhai Lishan village and the Red Yuxi village have also joined in the boom.

But the business euphoria also brought in new problems. As the heating and kitchens of homestays mainly relied on coal and gas in the past, pollution and safety hazards loomed large, posing a worry both for tourists as well as homestay owners.

Helping hand

Realizing this, the local power supply arm of State Grid reached out to help.

Hand in hand with the local government and the scenic spot administrative committee, State Grid Liandu District Electric Power Co — a unit of State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power — decided to set up standards for all-electric homestays and all-electric kitchens, offering subsidies for their construction.

The power supplier built 20 all-electric homestays initially, and also invested in building an electric-ship charging system, to provide charging services for electric ships for the local port and navigation bureau and the scenic spot administrative committee.

Zhuge Wei, the owner of Zhuge Shi's Homestay in Yantou village, said he benefited from the green transformation.

When he converted his old house into a homestay for tourists, the concerns were regarding coal and gas supplies as most of the buildings in the Ancient Weir-Home of Painting scenic area are wooden structures.

However, the electric energy substitution project initiated by State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power led to a redesign of the kitchen equipment with new electric cookware, which helped improve safety and made it more environmentally friendly.

Zhuge said more clients came to his homestay after the renovation, while the costs were recovered within a year.

"The electricity efficiency is good, and now there is no need for my customers to complain anymore," he said.

Meanwhile, to ensure sufficient power supply, the company added seven new power transformers to the scenic area, upgrading its capacity from the original 400 kilovolt-amperes to 5,840 kVA.

It has also renovated and built power lines extending for 37.2 kilometers, largely elevating its power supply capacity.

According to Wu Ailing from the Liandu District Electric Power Co, since 2018, it has invested some 15 million yuan in adding 15 power grid engineering projects to the region, helping to boost rural vitalization.

To beautify the area, the company has placed power lines underground, and landscaped power transformer boxes to integrate power supply equipment with the scenery.

Broadening industries

Amid improvements to the quality of life, the driving force of industries is the core. At present, more villagers are joining the tourism industry, resulting in full employment.

At the entrance of the scenic area, 51-year-old Fang Aiwei operates a 10-square-meter grocery store, which earns him an annual income of 70,000 to 80,000 yuan.

"I don't have to work as a migrant worker or farm the fields, but just sit in the store and chat with my neighbors. I did not dare to think of such days before," he said.

The hardworking residents of Yantou village even took advantage of the green transition to plant tea.

"We grow tea on the high mountains, and with low pollution and high quality, many people come to buy them," said Liu Huorong, a tea grower from the village, adding that the annual profit from selling tea exceeds 200,000 yuan for his family.

Due to high demand, the tea planting area in Yantou has continuously expanded in recent years, with over 350 households engaged in the occupation, garnering an output value surpassing 12 million yuan each year, Liu said.

Before 2006, Yantou was a poor mountainous village with a per capita income of less than 2,000 yuan each year, recalled Zhang Weiwu, director of the Yantou Village Committee.

However, it now has more than 30 homestays, with a capacity to host over 300,000 tourists each year and an annual earning capacity of more than 10 million yuan, he said, noting that the average annual income of villagers exceeds 46,000 yuan.

"The convening of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has made us more confident in the development of Yantou village," he said.

While continuing to protect the local ecology, he said the village will vigorously develop the homestay industry, help villagers increase their incomes and make the village more prosperous.