The nature reserve born in the “factory of the world” in the Greater Bay Area offers wisdom in the competition between economy and nature


Views from National Forest Park, Mount Guanyin Photo: Hu Yuwei/GT

Sustainability is the backbone of business, which has proven more than accurate in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA), which is expected to be integrated into a group of world-class cities with connectivity improved and improved eco-development.

How to strike a balance between economic growth and environmental sustainability has long been a common struggle for nature reserves around the world. And in Dongguan, southern China, also known as the “factory of the world” because of its thriving manufacturing industry, located in the central GBA hinterland, these difficulties and struggles are even more important.

It is hard to imagine that there is an urban “green lung” in the “factory of the world”. A visit to Mount Guanyin National Forest Park, Dongguan’s largest and most comprehensive secondary forest on the Dongguan-Shenzhen border in Zhangmutou Town, Dongguan, revealed how he handled this contradiction to achieve a balance. organic.

Here, entrepreneurial investment plays a much larger role in financing environmentally sustainable projects that help generate economic value for the entire region.

Mount Guanyin is centrally located in the GBA, with Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Guangzhou and other central cities within an hour’s drive. Different from most nature reserves located in economically backward regions of China, Mount Guanyin is in the most economically developed region of the country. It faces the most intense contradiction and competition between economic growth and environmental protection, which is difficult and the benefits are both obvious.

China unveiled a development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in February 2019, pledging to develop a quality space for living, working and traveling by firmly adopting the people-centered development philosophy. people and putting into practice ecological conservation ideas for building a “beautiful bay that is ecologically safe, environmentally attractive, socially stable and culturally vibrant”.

Established in 2000, Mount Guanyin National Forest Park, the first such park to be developed by a private operator in China, has achieved such results by transforming a barren mountain full of weeds into a multi-functional park, integrating sightseeing ecological, physical activities, religious tourism, in a “natural oxygen bar”, attracting visitors to the Bay Area.

Views from National Forest Park, Mount Guanyin Photo: Courtesy of Mount Guanyin National Forest Park

Seek balance from contradictions

A walk in the forest park is a refreshing escape from the constantly humming high-speed manufacturing engine, as one is surrounded by greenery, inhales the scent of various shrubs, and discovers a centuries-old primeval forest that has largely preserved its ancient landscape.

The forest park has a vegetation cover rate of over 92 percent and has a total breeding population of nearly 1,000 species of wild plants and over 300 species of wild animals.

The park is reported to spend nearly 10 million yuan ($1.49 million) every year on forest improvement to protect rare plants such as White Osmanthus and Camellia sinensis, and wild animals. rare such as Chinese salamanders, pangolins and herds of wild boar.

On January 11, 2003, the park opened the world’s first ancient tree museum, preserving and exhibiting trees up to 4,000 years old, raising awareness of the ancient environment and paleoclimate.

Thanks to this investment, the forest cover of Mount Guanyin has increased from 60% in 2000 to more than 92% today. Experts have found that the park is rich in negative oxygen ions, which greatly improve the air quality of surrounding cities, and constitute an important ecological barrier for the province.

Since the mid-1980s, Dongguan has been China’s main export and manufacturing base, producing garments, toys, and shoes. The research found that harmful carcinogenic fine particles PM2.5 increased until around 2017.

While many factory workers once lived in a dormitory in a condensed industrial district away from the city center, there is now greener living beyond the factory walls amid improved environmental measures local.

But caring for the environment in the world’s cutting-edge factory machinery has never been an easy road. For many, it felt like it had shut down a lot of people’s money-making machine. Environmental protection was once seen as a sector with a long way to go and a very low return on investment after reform and opening up.

In recent years, driven by economic interests, nearby villagers have used traps to hunt animals. The park operator has updated nearly 50 warning signs in the park since 2021 and conducted 24-hour patrols to remove 16 hunting traps in a timely manner.

The operator does not allow overhead power lines to cross the jungle and destroy vegetation, preferring to generate electricity by other means at a higher cost.

“When our resolute environmental protection comes into conflict with local villagers’ desire for economic development, we can only try to create more jobs to compensate and lessen the conflict,” said Chen Jingyu, head of the committee. Mount Management, to the Global Times.

Aiming to build the park as one of the demonstration areas for green development in the GBA, the chief developer of Mount Guanyin, Huang Ganbo, told the Global Times that they plan to further increase the share of the economy of health and fitness in the park and make it a driver of local economic development.

People visit National Forest Park, Mount Guanyin.  Photo: Courtesy of Mount Guanyin National Forest Park

People visit National Forest Park, Mount Guanyin. Photo: Courtesy of Mount Guanyin National Forest Park

Multifunctional thematic green pole

On December 28, 2009, Mount Guanyin was listed as a Level 4A tourist site by the National Tourism Administration. It was also added to the list of the United Nations International Eco-Safety Cooperative Organization of China International Eco-Travel Model Foundation in October 2006.

In recent years, Mount Guanyin has launched various health and cultural activities, such as New Year’s rock climbing events, Great Bay hiking festivals, summer night music camping festivals and even large-scale “blind date” events that draw people from the Greater Bay Area metropolitan areas.

The green ecological space in the cities of the Greater Bay Area is very limited, and there are few high-quality forest park resources. Mount Guanyin has thus become a popular destination for tourists from Hong Kong, given its convenient transportation and common belief in Buddhism, Chen told the Global Times.

Mount Guanyin has received more than 15 million domestic and foreign tourists so far, generating direct tourism income of more than 1.5 billion yuan ($223.8 million), and has directly and indirectly helped nearly 20,000 people to find jobs in the industries concerned, because he has successfully explored a new way of symbiosis between ecological protection and economic development in the GRB.

Huang said that in accordance with the GBA’s ecological development plan, Mount Guanyin will invest more in ecological construction and protection, care for natural wealth, and strive to create a “green bank” for the sustainable development of generations. future.

It took 22 years to transform the site from a barren mountain into a popular tourist destination in the GBA. The green and shiny pearl of “world factory” shows its vitality.


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