Bei­jing be­comes greener, wel­comes back wild birds

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

A pri­vate home in an old hu­tong, or al­ley­way, in down­town Bei­jing has wel­comed a group of rare guests — five fledg­ling swal­lows.

“I haven’t seen a swal­low’s nest for over 30 years,” said Fan Liandi, a re­tired Chi­nese lan­guage teacher who lives in Dazhiqiao Hu­tong, just south of Xuan­wu­men.

“Last year, I had the house’s gate re­painted, and in spring, swal­lows started build­ing a nest un­der the roof,” Fan said.

Gao Wu, an or­nithol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor at Cap­i­tal Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity, said many years ago, swal­lows were a com­mon sight in Bei­jing.

“When the pop­u­la­tion rose quickly, birds started to leave be­cause they couldn’t build nests on mod­ern apart­ment build­ings,” Gao said.

“The fact that they are com­ing back is a good phe­nom­e­non, it means the area is quiet enough and there are abun­dant food re­sources.”

Dazhiqiao Hu­tong is 186 me­ters long. Be­fore the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), it was a drainage ditch.

Tea­houses and restau­rants started to be built dur­ing the late Qing Dy­nasty and it even­tu­ally be­came one of the most crowded and chaotic al­ley­ways in the south­ern part of down­town Bei­jing.

Since April last year, il­le­gally con­structed struc­tures and hole-in-the-wall restau­rants have been dis­man­tled. Wires that used to crisscross above the build­ings were buried un­der­ground.

Roads were ex­panded, and di­lap­i­dated houses re­paired. Dazhiqiao is one of seven al­ley­ways that have been ren­o­vated south of Xuan­wu­men.

“The en­vi­ron­ment is much qui­eter now, and I guess that’s why the birds are com­ing back,” Fan said.

Bei­jing’s ef­forts to dis­man­tle il­le­gal con­struc­tions, build parks and wet­lands, and re­store an­cient al­ley­ways have helped clean up the city’s en­vi­ron­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to municipal sta­tis­tics, the gov­ern­ment has built 210 large parks around the city.

Its green cov­er­age is about 26.8 per­cent, up about 12 per­cent­age points com­pared with the fig­ure five years ago.

Bei­jing has 50,000 hectares of wet­lands. By 2020, it plans to add an­other 3,000 hectares. The green cov­er­age will be at least 30 per­cent by then, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment plan.

Bei­jing Wildlife Res­cue and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­ter, which mon­i­tors the wild bird pop­u­la­tion, said that from 2014 to 2015, there were about 150 species of birds in Bei­jing, and that num­ber has risen to 200 since last year.

“These swal­lows will grow and one day they will leave my house, but I hope more birds will come and build nests here, like they did when I was young,” Fan said.

CHEN LIANG / CHINA DAILY

Bei­jing’s wet­lands are sanc­tu­ar­ies for a grow­ing num­ber of wild birds.

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