Lin’an: A Model for Eco-villages
Lin’an has built 120 eco-villages, making it a leader in developing an ecological countryside.
As an old saying goes, Lin’an District in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, features “ninety percent mountains, five percent rivers and five percent farmland.” The lush vegetation covering Tianmu Mountain and the streams feeding Taihu Lake bestow on the district in northwestern Zhejiang stunning natural scenery.
In recent years, by following the idea that “clear waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets,” Lin’an has become committed to fostering a new green environment, green industry, green communities and green culture. It has invested 3.6 billion yuan (US$562 million) to build 120 eco-villages.
The district has earned prizes and titles such as “China Exemplary Living Environment Award,” one of the “Top 10 Livable Eco-cities” and one of the “Most Beautiful Towns in China,” injecting even greater momentum into the development of eco-tourism and eco-agriculture.
Province’s first Scenic Village Standards, which addressed household sewage treatment, garbage classification and road construction. The district planned to build 30 rural scenic resorts over the next few years to drive the upgrade of the beautiful countryside.
Last year, Lin’an invested 450 million yuan (US$70 million) to build 10 scenic villages including Yueliangqiao Village at the foot of Tianmu Mountain. The village is taking on a whole new look: Renovated residences with white walls and black-tiled roofs are complemented by idyllic 3D murals, giving the village an elegant ambiance. Dilapidated houses were demolished and converted into gardens, public toilets, grocery stores, openair tea bars and cinemas. Once hopelesslooking street corners were transformed with flower beds encircled by cobblestones, and the 70-hectare bamboo grove along the stream outside the village will soon receive an injection of flowers and fruits.
Lin’an is home to the source of Taihu Lake, so water resource conservation is a key component of the district’s ecological protection. A local enterprise devoted to environmental improvement, Lin’an Danjing Environmental Engineering Co., Ltd. has carried out extensive technical cooperation with Zhejiang Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Northeastern University and other research institutions to develop a rural sewage treatment regulation platform utilizing wireless Internet of Things (IOT) technology, which can achieve remote monitoring of the operation and performance of sewage treatment systems.
Huanhu Village in Banqiao Town set up the district’s first village-level smart garbage classification and collection station. Again utilizing IOT technology, the station can remotely monitor all discharge of classified garbage and automatically award points to villagers who properly implement garbage classification. Most of the station’s monitoring equipment has already been installed.
A Place Like Home
A stream snakes around craggy rocks in a tranquil valley near the source of Taihu Lake in Linmu, Lin’an District. Baisha Village, known as the “first village for rural tourism in China,” is hidden deep in the valley.
According to Wei Jin, former head of Lin’an Commission of Rural Affairs, from “renting mountainous land” in the 1980s and “selling forest products” in the 1990s to “developing rural tourism” in the 21st century, Baisha Village is the trendsetter of rural development in Lin’an.
Lin’an now has a National Recreational Tourist Village, 13 provincial-level Tourist Villages, 17 municipal-level Tourist Villages and 39 district-level Tourist Villages, collectively offering a total of 27,000 beds. Tourists can taste rural food, stay in authentic village residences and experience real rural lifestyles.
Baisha Village is far from the only scenic village in Lin’an. In Sunjia Village of Changhua Town, one is likely to encounter
an American in his fifties bicycling along the mountain path. His name is Bob, and he works in Hangzhou. Two years ago, he first discovered the village during a bicycling trip. At the first sight, its murmuring streams, lush woods, and residences with white walls and red-titled roofs tugged at his heart. “This beautiful village is identical to my hometown,” Bob says. “I stopped pedaling and had to stay.”
The following weekend, Bob came back to the village. He spent 200,000 yuan (US$31,000) renting a house from a local villager and settled there. “Internet+” Eco-villages
As the district works hard to promote the eco-economy and revitalize rural development, enhancing agricultural efficiency and increasing farmers’ income have become a new mission for Lin’an in the process of building a beautiful countryside in the new era.
In recent years, invigorating agricultural development with any available technology has become the focus of the district’s strategy for developing the rural economy.
Alongside ecological and circular agriculture demonstration projects, Lin’an has fostered 845 new business entities such as family farms and rural family hotels. In 2016, the district earned 13.82 billion yuan (US$2.15 billion) from tourism, an increase of 139.4 percent compared to 2011. Many villagers throughout Lin’an began selling forest products such as hickory nuts online. So far, six towns and 22 villages in the district are known for operating online shops on Taobao.com, China’s leading e-commerce site, ranking Lin’an among “China’s Top 100 E-commerce Counties/districts” for three consecutive years. In 2017, its rural areas realized online sales volume totaling 3 billion yuan (US$468 million).
Bainiu Village set a shining example for rural e-commerce development in Lin’an. In 2012, the village became one of the first to be cited as a “Taobao Village” due to its startling online sales of nuts. In 2014, Wang Yang, vice premier of the State Council of China, visited the village during an inspection tour. Over years, the village has established itself as a legend of rural e-commerce.
Many other villages in Lin’an have followed in Bainiu’s footsteps, selling their agricultural products online, including sweet potatoes from Tianmu Mountain, fresh bamboo shoots at the source of Taihu Lake, and alpine vegetables in Gaohong area. These products are so popular with online shoppers that the supply falls far short of the explosive demand. For instance, sweet potatoes from Lin’an still sell out rapidly every time they’re offered despite a tripled price.
Wang Yunjie, a native of Ziyou Village in the district’s Yuqian Town, is a forefather of the sweet potato business in Lin’an. In 2002, he contracted 0.6 hectares of farmland from his village to grow sweet potatoes. Over the following 15 years, he has created a miracle by expanding his sweet potato planting business to 12 provinces, with an annual output totaling 1,000 tons.
“Over the last five years, the price of sweet potatoes has surged with each passing year,” Wang grins. “Even dealers themselves ask me to raise the wholesale prices. Currently, about half of the sweet potatoes I grow are sold online.” Even a conservative estimate would tally at least 1,000 online sweet potato sellers in Lin’an, according to Wang.
Dubbed the “home of hickory nuts,” Lin’an boasts a 500-year history of planting and processing hickory. During harvest season in September, local villagers dry hickory nuts on the ground. VCG