Larger pro­tec­tion zone will be set up to pre­vent glacier dam­age by tourists

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG - By MAO WEIHUA and in Urumqi CHENG YINGQI in Bei­jing

Northwest China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion will ban tourists from en­ter­ing a 22,000 square kilome­ter glacier pro­tec­tion zone in the Tian­shan Moun­tains.

“Glacier tourism brought in rev­enue of less than one bil­lion yuan ($152 mil­lion) over the past dozen years, but the loss from shrink­ing glaciers is in­cal­cu­la­ble,” Li Ji­dong from the re­gional tourism ad­min­is­tra­tion was quoted as say­ing by Xin­hua News Agency.

Li cited tourism, man­u­fac­tur­ing, min­ing, ve­hi­cle emis­sions and graz­ing as ad­di­tional rea­sons — be­sides cli­mate change — that had caused ac­cel­er­ated glacier re­treat in re­cent decades.

“We will ban glacier tourism by 2020 and pro­pose re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties with hol­i­day re­sorts so that peo­ple can ob­serve glaciers from afar,” Hong Kong-based South China Morn­ing Post quoted Li as say­ing.

In April 2014, the re­gional govern­ment set up a 948 sq km pro­tec­tion zone at Glacier No 1 in the Tian­shan Moun­tains, 120 km from the re­gional cap­i­tal of Urumqi. Yet the mea­sure proved in­ef­fec­tive as trav­el­ers still vis­ited the zone on their own, with­out the help of travel agen­cies.

In a visit to the pro­tec­tion zone, China Daily found seven herds­man fam­i­lies set­ting up pri­vate check­points to charge en­trance fees. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the money, the herds­men opened the gate to let tourists drive to the foot of the moun­tain and climb onto the glacier.

Many tourists leave garbage such as empty bot­tles and plas­tic bags af­ter camp­ing on the moun­tain.

“Cli­mate change is the pri­mary cause of glaciers re­treat­ing. How­ever, the in­flu­ence of tourism, graz­ing and min­ing has also ex­erted an in­flu­ence on Glacier No 1,” said Li Zhongqin, di­rec­tor of the Tian­shan Moun­tains Glacier Ob­ser­va­tion Sta­tion un­der the Chi­nese Academy of Sci­ences.

“Now, the melt­ing is speed­ing up. I hope au­thor­i­ties can im­ple­ment the new reg­u­la­tions as soon as pos­si­ble to pro­tect the glaciers.”

An ear­lier Xi n h u a re­port showed that the 4.8 mil­lion-year-old Glacier No 1 had shrunk from 1.95 sq km in 1962 to 1.62 sq km in 2014 and is re­treat­ing by up to eight me­ters a year.

Other moun­tains in Xin­jiang have ex­pe­ri­enced the same trend.

In re­cent years, melt­ing glaciers have ac­counted for 25 to 30 per­cent of sur­face runoff in Xin­jiang, and re­sulted in an in creased risk of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

On May 5, a glacial slide in Akto county of the Kizilsu Kirghiz au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture dam­aged 1,000 hectares of meadow and 70 farm­houses.

“From re­mote sens­ing im­ages, we found that two weeks of snow­fall at the north side of Kongur Ti­ube glacier caused the col­lapse. Such dras­tic glacier move­ment is very rare in the his­tory of Xin­jiang, and we should take it as a warn­ing from na­ture,” Li said.

Kongur Ti­ube, which means “the moun­tain with a white cap” in the lo­cal lan­guage, is the se­cond high­est peak of Western Kun­lun with an el­e­va­tion of 7,530 me­ters.

Con­tact the writ­ers at maoweihua@chi­nadaily. com.cn

JIANG WENYAO / XIN­HUA

Glacial melt

at Glacier No 1in the Tian­shan Moun­tains has in­creased over the past few decades. Li Ji­dong, of­fi­cial from the rgional tourism ad­min­is­tra­tion

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