Hainan’s provincial capital has transformed itself in the past two decades, Wang Ru reports in Haikou, and the villages of Meishe and Xinghui are shining examples of this change.
The transformation of two poor villages, one by dormant volcanoes and the other near a mangrove forest, bears witness to the changes in Haikou, Hainan’s provincial capital.
Every morning, Wang Jianping walks along the main path of his 800-year-old village, paved with basalt from the volcanoes. Alongside the path are areca trees and new houses, which Wang proudly shows off to tourists.
There is a 20-meter-tall guard tower built at the beginning of the 20th century and giant basalt boulders with bullet holes from the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
As the head of Meishe village, in Xiuying district of Haikou, Wang, 47, is in charge of 800 people.
The nearby Leiqiong volcanic cluster, from the Quaternary period, consists of 40 volcanoes that are now a national geological park.
In addition to Meishe, there are 13 other nearby villages that have benefited from the selenium rich soil, which makes it a paradise for growing papaya, lychee and huanghuali, a rare species of rosewood.
In recent years, the price of the rare wood, used for furniture since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), has skyrocketed to about 20,000 yuan ($3,200) for 0.5 kg.
But just two decades ago, Meishe was poor and lacked basic resources like clean water, electricity and gas.
For generations, villagers used the black basalt to build houses and pigsties and chopped down the forest for fuel to keep warm and cook.
"In the past, we cut down all the wood in the mountains for firewood," Wang admits.
Among the harmful environmental effects of this deforestation were frequent landslides.
"Waste and garbage were everywhere. Life was a disaster then," Wang recalls.
Even water was a precious resource in this tropical paradise, as vats collected rainfall that drained off roofs.
"There was a tradition that families with the most water vats secured the best marriages," Wang says.
Wang Chunrong, a member of the village’s Party Committee, adds: "Due to the horrible sanitation many women suffered from gynecological diseases and most families were too poor to afford medicines."
Since Hainan province was established in 1988 as a special economic zone, many young Meishe villagers migrated to the cities to study or work. They returned with money and the knowledge to rebuild their hometown.
Since the late 1990s, the local government provided finance to improve infrastructure, including building a highway to Haikou, repaving the roads and streets in the villages and building facilities like theaters, sports venues and village squares.
In 2002, tap water and electricity became available in Meishe, while the local government introduced farming tourism to help locals increase their incomes.
"We have always had wonderful volcanic scenery and tropical forests, but only in recent years have we realized they are a precious gift and we must make use of them to improve the lives of local people," says Liao Xiaoping, a media official in Haikou.
Attracted by the geological park, tourists have poured in and Meishe villagers have built guesthouses and restaurants. During the National Day holiday, there were more than 6,000 visitors to Meishe.
Inspired by the popular online game Happy Farm, a resort was built. It has holiday cottages, restaurants and bars and organic fruit and vegetables fields.
These improvements have in turn made villagers realize the importance of environmental protection.
"We pick up garbage and livestock droppings and cut trees according to quotas. The village is like a garden now," says Wang Jianping, who grows huanghuali trees in his courtyard.
"We keep the big water vats and though we don’t use them any more they do make a good story for the tourists."
'Starry' village
In Haikou’s Meilan district, near Dongzhai Harbor is a village called Xinghui, which means "starry".
About 400 years ago a violent earthquake shook Dongzhai Harbor and 72 villages sank into the sea — forming the country’s only undersea village cluster. As the tide retreats, relics from the village appear like stone coffins.
Xinghui villagers have been fishermen for generations and worshipped the goddess Mazu. Nowadays, thanks to tourism, they have become rich after opening seafood restaurants.
Xinghui is also known for the longevity of its people, such as the 95-year-old Liu Jinmei. Her husband died when she was 27 and she raised her two children on her own. Her son works in the city and her daughter got married in France.
Liu keeps busy by running a guesthouse for tourists who visit the undersea village and "sea forest" — a 56-square-km mangrove swamp, which became a national reserve in 1980.
Tang Nanxing, 60, head of Xinghui village and the only remaining fisherman, says that in the 1950s, there was more than 10,000 hectares of mangrove in Dongzhai Harbor, a habitat for more than 25 kinds of plants and endangered birds like black-faced spoonbills.
"In the 1960s, in order to create farmland, we got rid of the mangrove," he says. In the 1990s, duck farms sprouted around the village and the resulting pollution caused 70 percent of the mangrove forest to disappear.
Tang says this led to storm damage in the villages.
"The mangrove forest naturally protected the villages, reducing the impact of natural disasters," says Ou Xinzhi, a Meilan district official.
"The seafood and fruit are nutritious and delicious because the mangrove leaves make the seawater and soil rich in micro-organisms," Ou says. "That might explain why Xinghui villagers have such long lives."
"So if we ruin the mangrove, we ruin everything here. We must endeavor to protect it."
In recent years, the duck farms have been removed by the local government and the duck farmers relocated and compensated.
Now the mangrove forest in Dongzhai Harbor is recovering.
Ou says some companies are planning to build holiday resorts near the mangrove reserve, if they receive positive environmental evaluation reports.
"As long as we have sustainable and scientific management, environmental protection and economic development are not in conflict, but rather benefit each other."
SOURCE: China Daily
Editorial Message
This site contains materials from other clearly stated media sources for the purpose of discussion stimulation and content enrichment among our members only.

whatsonsanya.com does not necessarily endorse their views or the accuracy of their content. For copyright infringement issues please contact editor@whatsonsanya.com