Xin­jiang geop­ark to boost tourism

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi and WANG KEJU in Bei­jing

North­west China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion has of­fi­cially opened its first global geop­ark, turn­ing an aban­doned mine area in Keke­tuo­hai into a sus­tain­able tourism des­ti­na­tion that will im­prove lo­cal liv­ing stan­dards.

Lo­cated south of the Al­tay Moun­tains and at the source of the Ir­tysh River, the park is the first global geop­ark in Xin­jiang and covers more than 2,300 square kilo­me­ters. Vis­i­tors will be able to en­joy breath­tak­ing views in­clud­ing the Ir­tysh Grand Canyon, a huge mine crater, lakes, moun­tains, a wa­ter­fall, fos­sils and rivers.

“The open­ing of Keke­tuo­hai geop­ark is a mile­stone in pro­tect­ing the ge­o­log­i­cal relics and de­vel­op­ing tourism re­sources in a ra­tio­nal way,” Du Shibao, di­rec­tor of ge­o­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment at the Land and Re­source Depart­ment, said at the park’s open­ing cer­e­mony on Oct 10.

UNESCO an­nounced eight new global geop­arks, in­clud­ing Keke­tuo­hai, in May last year.

“The geop­ark, char­ac­ter­ized by a large min­ing area and ge­o­log­i­cal relics of great sig­nif­i­cance, is ex­pected to in­crease lo­cal in­comes and drive the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of the lo­cal econ­omy through its pre­cious ge­o­log­i­cal land­scape and rare mine site,” park of­fi­cial Jin Xiaochi said at the open­ing cer­e­mony.

The global geop­ark des­ig­na­tion is valid for four years. Jin said re-eval­u­a­tion by UNESCO could en­cour­age the lo­cal gov­ern­ment to strengthen its pro­tec­tion and up­grade its in­fra­struc­ture in or­der to fa­vor tourism and de­velop a rep­re­sen­ta­tive tourism brand, all of which will boost re­gional eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Keke­tuo­hai was once a cel­e­brated mine area in China, and rare met­als were mined there for more than half a cen­tury. It earned na­tional fame, as min­er­als in the area con­trib­uted to the coun­try’s aerospace and de­fense in­dus­tries.

Due to re­source de­ple­tion, min­ing was sus­pended in 2002, and Keke­tuo­hai was on its way to be­com­ing a ghost town, af­fect­ing the in­comes of lo­cal res­i­dents.

The cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment have since in­vested more than 2 bil­lion yuan ($289 mil­lion) to re­store the mine area’s en­vi­ron­ment, im­prove in­fra­struc­ture and pro­mote tourism. In 2005, Keke­tuo­hai was ap­proved as a na­tional geop­ark.

The park has nu­mer­ous rare me­tal de­posits and mine sites, unique Al­tay Moun­tain gran­ite land­forms, earth­quake relics and the beau­ti­ful scenery of the Ir­tysh River. It is now a com­pre­hen­sive nat­u­ral park in­te­grat­ing ge­o­log­i­cal re­search, the pop­u­lar­iza­tion of science, sight­see­ing and leisure, with great sci­en­tific value, dis­tinc­tive lo­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics and at­trac­tive nat­u­ral scenery.

Last year, the av­er­age an­nual net in­come of ru­ral res­i­dents and herders in Keke­tuo­hai topped 13,000 yuan, hav­ing risen by more than 10 per­cent in a year. Nearly 3 mil­lion do­mes­tic and for­eign tourists vis­ited Keke­tuo­hai in 2017, up over 50 per­cent year-on-year.

“The lo­cal gov­ern­ment will in­tro­duce pro­fes­sional man­age­ment and op­er­a­tion ser­vices, brand re­sources and tech­nol­ogy to build a first­class global geop­ark and tourist at­trac­tion, which is set to of­fer vis­i­tors sight­see­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, as well as pro­vide sci­en­tific knowl­edge,” said Sun Yu­jiang, deputy Party sec­re­tary of Fuyun county, which en­com­passes the park.

Con­tact the writ­ers at wangkeju@ chi­

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