UNESCO Park costs Fangshan 3 bln yuan

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More than 3 billion yuan has been spent on the Fangshan Global Geopark by the district government ahead of a mid term review by UNESCO over the park's future.

As part of its efforts to pass the review, the Fangshan district government is also relocating hundreds of thousands of people as well as closing coal mines - all before the July 31 deadline.

The 950 sq km park was recognized by UNESCO as a global geopark in September 2006 - the only place in Beijing to get the honor.

The park has a 2.8-billion-year history of geological evolution, and the skullcap of "Peking Man", found in the park, are at least 500,000 years old, said Zhao Xun, a former chief of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences.

As part of the district's expenditure, a museum, costing 180 million yuan and covering more than 6,110 sq m in Changgou town, was opened on Saturday.

"We have spent about 3 billion yuan on the park to pass the review," said Tang Shurong, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Fangshan branch.

This expenditure seems excessive as a report released by the Beijing municipal bureau of statistics shows the total revenue of Fangshan district government in 2006, 2007 and 2008 was 5.6 billion yuan. Last year's figures was unavailable.

Tang said 690 million yuan was spent on planting trees and grass, and 1.53 billion yuan on building infrastructure such as restaurants, hotels and vacation villas.

The government also built five long-distance coach stations, 124 bus stations and 20 star-level public toilets.

All coal mines in the district will be shut before the mid term review to reduce pollution, costing 100,000 miners their jobs.

"Tourism will be the major income of local economy in the future, so we are determined to pass the mid term review," Tang said.

In addition to the miners, 696 families with 2,134 people from Yanhe village near the geopark have been relocated and 549 houses and courtyards torn down by the end of last year, the government's website said.

Wang Fuliang, a former strawberry farmer from Fengzhuang village, said the district government took his 20,000 sq m property last year.

"Even though the government paid my family 1 million yuan in compensation, we still prefer to have our own land," Wang told METRO.

Eight hundred more families in his village have also been asked to move before the 2011 Spring Festival, with a compensation of 1,500 yuan per sq m.

"Most of us don't want to move because the compensation is too low, but we heard that houses were being torn down anyway," Wang said. "The development of the geopark has influenced our life, but it seems like we don't have another choice."

Preparations for the mid-term review have satisfied UNESCO officials.

"The local government and people have done a good job to preserve and promote nature," said Peter Bobrowsky, secretary-general of the International Union of Geological Sciences, who is cooperating with UNESCO's geopark programs.

Bobrowsky said the park's preservation is important to the mid term review, which includes controlling the number of people living near the park and educating people to preserve it.

"The government is spending its money wisely," he said. "It has done a very good job and has nothing to worry about."


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