‘Migratory birds’ put an end to old ways
Asmall fish that locals catch in the subterranean rivers is regarded as a delicacy after being fried in its own fat. The price has increased more than 10 times since my first visit to Bama in 2013, because it has almost vanished now.
I have been to Bama three times, and it was noisier and more crowded on the second visit than it was on the first, and even more so on my third visit.
The coming of visitors, especially the “migratory birds”, represents a stable source of revenue for the locals.
But a big concern of the longevity villages, which are concentrated in the valley along the Panyang River, is how to dispose of the sewage and solid waste, which have increased rapidly with the growing number of “migratory birds”.
Although the county government arranges for trucks to carry the solid waste to a refuse processing plant in the town, some garbage is directly burned by local dustmen in the dustbins on the side of the road in the mountains. The pungent smoke is repulsive and can be smelled miles away from where it is being burned.
And some eateries and homestays directly discharge waste into the simple sewer system that goes directly into the Panyang River.
Although locals admit the environmental concerns must be addressed as soon as possible, the visitors have made it impossible for the locals to return to the old way of life in the county.
Now almost all families are engaged in businesses related to tourism, which has seen their incomes increase over the past decade.
Bama’s popularity has attracted more than 60 billion yuan ($9.53 billion) in investments since 2016. Hopefully, some of that investment will be used for environmental protection.
The county government should set a ceiling on the number of visitors each year based on carrying capacity of the local environment. This will benefit Bama in the long run.
Also, the commercial exploitation of the mineral water in Bama must be planned, if not controlled, carefully.
There are already 13 bottled water companies in Bama, with an output of 1.23 billion yuan last year, up 10.8 percent year-on-year.
Once the groundwater lowers to a certain level, it is very difficult to recover and will trigger a chain reaction in the local ecosystem.
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