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How campaign against littering in Tibet created wealth for natives

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By Cao Siqi, Global Times
As part of a poverty alleviation campaign, residents in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China’s Gansu Province, have launched an environmental revolution, turning the formerly dirty, disorderly region into the country’s best example of the transformational power of a “no littering” policy.
Gannan is home to 24 ethnic groups with Tibetan residents accounting for 55.92 percent of the total. As both the Yellow and Yangtze rivers pass through the region, there are a variety of landscapes including forests, lakes, valleys, mountains and prairies. Therefore, the region has long been dubbed a place “to free the soul” and “the travel destination with the most ethnic characteristics in China.”
However, some Tibetan residents live a nomadic life, which has led to piles of garbage and the problem of over-grazing and grassland degradation. Moreover, the booming travel industry worsened the situation.
Since 2015, the local government has launched a campaign to have an environmental revolution, aiming to establish a demonstration area featuring “no trash in sight.” Around 403 villages have earned the title Model Village of Ecological Civilization, an honor for accomplishing the objectives of the campaign. The number of such villages is expected to reach 1,500 by 2020, according to the local government’s plan.
Along with the deepening of the environmental revolution, the prefecture also successfully helped lift 9,740 households with 41,400 people out of poverty, accounting for 48 percent of the total of impoverished people in the area.

Trail of rubbish
Friday is the prefecture’s sanitation day. Early in the morning, Wang Lin, an official in Gaxiu village in Luqu county, leads his team out to collect garbage.
“We started from the national road. Then we taught local residents to clean their living rooms, kitchens and toilets. Now they will join us to clean the public places,” Wang told the Global Times.
Wang said that because the national road in the village connects Lanzhou, Gansu, with Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, a number of tourists who pass the village leave a trail of trash, including plastic bottles and cigarette ends. Some even defecate along the roadside.


“The trash we collect will be transported to the county’s refuse collection points for classification.
It has not only raised local people’s awareness of keeping a clean environment, but also turned the region into a popular tourist attraction, even for many foreign tourists,” said Wang.
“No Littering” is deeply planted in Tibetan residents’ hearts. Wang Yucheng, a 9-year-old boy, has joined the prefecture’s environmental protection association with his mother.

Attracting tourists
Wang noted that the environmental revolution has not only changed the appearance of the beautiful landscape, but also helped local residents to shake off poverty.
“The fantastic landscape helps boost local tourism. Many villagers are selling their fruits and vegetables through e-commerce platforms, and some have established an art troupe to carry on their traditional culture,” Wang said.
Jiuma Cili, an official from the prefecture’s publicity department, told the Global Times that the prefecture has received around 5.6 million people in the first half of the year, an increase of 13.92 percent over the same period last year. The revenue from tourism was 2.8 billion yuan ($406 million), an increase of 22 percent over the same period last year.
According to Jiuma, since 2015, the prefecture has received 20 million tourists, accounting for a total of 9.7 billion yuan in revenue.
Wang said that Gaxiu villagers can earn over 3,000 yuan ($433) per month thanks to the range of poverty alleviation measures.
Meanwhile, with government support, local villagers have also raised funds to participate in the country’s toilet revolution.
Previously, local villagers relieved themselves in a pit latrine – which attracts flies in the summer and is cold in winter.
They rarely took showers and used cow feces as fuel for cooking.
“Now, we have different rooms for washing, cooking and living,” said Wang.
Located on the northeastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Gannan is the lowest in elevation of China’s 10 Tibetan autonomous areas. At the junction of Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces and with both the southern part of the Silk Road and the Tang-Tibet Ancient Road passing through it, the region possesses a unique culture that is a mixture of Tibetan, Han and other ethnic groups.

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