An­cient canal re­turns to life, ben­e­fit­ing res­i­dents

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CHENG SI in Xing’an, Guangxi [email protected]­ TANG GUANG­DONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Lingqu Canal, the world’s old­est man-made nav­i­ga­ble canal with a his­tory of over 2,000 years, is re­turn­ing to full vi­tal­ity in time for a boom in tourism and mod­ern agri­cul­ture.

The wa­ter con­ser­va­tion pro­ject, in Xing’an county, 70 kilo­me­ters from Guilin, the Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion, had strate­gic mil­i­tary im­por­tance in an­cient China and was or­dered built by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the Qin Dy­nasty (221-206 BC) to help unite the coun­try.

“The canal sup­ports res­i­dents’ spir­its, and is also a sym­bol of the county that at­tracts tourists,” said Huang Hong­bin, Party sec­re­tary of Xing’an.

He said that over 400,000 do­mes­tic vis­its were made by trav­el­ers from out­side the county. The Lingqu scenic spot is free to res­i­dents.

“We are now mak­ing ef­forts to im­press vis­i­tors with Lingqu’s cul­tural value more than nat­u­ral charm,” he said. “A canal-themed mu­seum has been un­der con­struc­tion since last Septem­ber, which will help pro­vide vis­i­tors with a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence with its vivid in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

Cover­ing 12,000 square me­ters, the mu­seum has at­tracted an in­vest­ment of 80 mil­lion yuan ($11.5 mil­lion) from the gov­ern­ment. It’s sched­uled to open to vis­i­tors around the Lu­nar New Year in Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to Huang.

“We are also in the process of restor­ing the canal’s func­tion for ir­ri­ga­tion and trans­porta­tion to re­ju­ve­nate agri­cul­ture along the canal,” he said.

The 36.4 kilo­me­ter canal, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by the gov­ern­ment, ir­ri­gates about 43 square kilo­me­ters of paddy and ben­e­fits over 59,000 peo­ple.

Tang Chun­yan, a 40-year-old Xing’an na­tive who used to work in nearby Guang­dong prov­ince, is run­ning her restau­rant and a co­op­er­a­tive fo­cus­ing on raising fish.

“The canal brings clean wa­ter to the paddy, and makes the fish we raise in the field plump, ap­peal­ing to the trav­el­ers’ taste,” she said. “We made a profit of about 600,000 yuan last year thanks to the long-stand­ing ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.”

How­ever, pro­tect­ing the eco- sys­tem of Lingqu Canal re­mains the pri­or­ity in de­vel­op­ing the an­cient wa­ter con­ser­va­tion pro­ject, ac­cord­ing to Huang Hong­bin.

“No in­dus­trial plant has been al­lowed to open along the canal since the 1950s,” he said. “We al­ways re­vere the canal. Though it’s chal­leng­ing to bal­ance pro­tec­tion and de­vel­op­ment of the canal, preser­va­tion of relics should al­ways come first, as we will lose ev­ery­thing if the canal gets dam­aged.”

The gov­ern­ment launched canal re­pairs in 2016, with nearly 200 mil­lion yuan in­vested so far to re­store the en­vi­ron­ment along its banks and its func­tion in trans­porta­tion, ac­cord­ing to Huang.

The canal was listed as one of the world’s Her­itage Ir­ri­ga­tion Struc­tures by the In­ter­na­tional Com­mis­sion on Ir­ri­ga­tion and Drainage in Au­gust, and prepa­ra­tions are un­der­way to ap­ply for World Cul­tural Her­itage.

Tourists visit Lingqu Canal in Xing’an county, the Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion, in Au­gust.

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