DONGGUAN, China, May 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Themed "Change Things, Save the Earth", a painting competition involving teenagers of Europe officially concluded on May 22, announcing one winner from each of the participating countries: Germany, Italy and France. During the competition, the junior artists translated their imagination of Dongguan in 2050 into series of beautiful paintings.
The competition was one of the recent events Dongguan Municipal Government organized in Europe to promote city image, under the theme of ecological environment protection. Meanwhile, its promotional video series This is Dongguan was aired on European television and social media. May 22 is also the International Day for Biological Diversity. The competition has enabled participants and people from all walks of life in Europe to know more about Dongguan and its contribution to ecological conservation and sustainable development.
"By promoting a creative initiative led by young people, Dongguan has given young Europeans the opportunity to show their vision of tomorrow’s world, which they will be responsible for building in a fairer and more sustainable way," remarked Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French Prime Minister and President of the Jury.
The truth is, Dongguan’s journey to a sustainable future wasn’t all smooth sailing. According to experts, from an agricultural-based county to an industrial and manufacturing city after more than 4 decades of development, Dongguan experienced two transformations in the relationship between its economic development and ecological conservation: the first one took place as the sustained urban expansion at the onset of industrial development damaged the natural ecosystem, leading to the continuing decline of natural habitat for plants and animals; the second one occurred with the reform of economic development model and the rising awareness of ecological conservation, as Dongguan started to establish forest parks, wetland parks and nature reserves, preserve and restore natural ecosystem through policies and land use planning, which marked the beginning of co-existence and co-prosperity between ecological conservation and an economic development model driven by tech and innovation.
Dongguan has devised its characterized way to achieve harmony and co-existence between economic development and biodiversity conservation. Since 2003, the city has started to build forest parks, set boundaries of urban development and reduce the intensity of the land development in nature reserves, while keeping the city’s ecological construction unhindered by short-term economical interest. Document from the Dongguan Forestry Bureau shows that Dongguan has designated a total of 1,103 square kilometers of ecological green zone, planned and built forest parks with a total area of 341.83 square kilometers, implemented 218,100 mu (35,929 acres) of "afforestation through mountain closure" projects, and carried out 3,859 old and valuable trees protection and management projects.
As an important filming location for This is Dongguan, Huayang Lake is a classical model of Dongguan’s conservation of environment and biodiversity. Planting mangrove was the measure of the project to restore the vegetation of the Huayang Lake wetland. Seven years of effort has turned the mangrove into an ideal habitat for fishes to breed and feed. With fishes multiplying, the lake has seen re-emergence of species unseen for years, like native Jinga shrimp, mudskipper and smooth soft-shell turtle, and even rare birds unseen for half a century, like egret, pond heron and night heron.
"To maintain biodiversity, we should minimize artificial intervention," said Han Xijun, staff of Dongguan Forestry Bureau. "Biodiversity conservation comes first among the three major duties of the forest park — we don’t just focus on developing tourism."
"Forest landscape restoration particularly showcases Dongguan’s effort in restoring the local biodiversity," said director Han. "We used to develop our economy through planting, cutting and selling fast-growing trees like eucalyptus and acacia mangium. However, these approaches no longer fit a developed economy, which was why we spent these years gradually replacing these tree species with more suitable ones, restoring and conserving our native species to return nature to its normality."
A clean production is the inevitable path Dongguan must take as an industrial and manufacturing city to transform its traditional production into a green and smart one. Taking this path, Gestamp Auto Components (Dongguan) Co. Ltd employed over 20 clean production methods in 2019 alone, creating over 1 million yuan worth of economic benefits annually since then — each year saving over 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, more than 30,000 cubic meters of natural gas, and reducing 400 kilograms of solid waste.
"People now are paying more attention to the ecological environment thanks to the economic development that raised their life standard." Han believes that guiding the public to protect wild plants and animals is the key task of the Forestry System’s 14th Five-Year Plan.
"Botanical garden is the Noah’s Ark for endangered plants, so its prime focus is species conservation. With a collection of more than 3,500 species of plants, Dongguan Botanical Garden is by far the largest landscape botanical garden in China’s prefecture-level cities", said Dr. Feng Xinxin of the Garden.
Dongguan’s construction of ecological civilization is reflected not only by designing and implementing the current policies of environment protection, but also by its focus on future, and on educating the teenagers about the subject. In recent years nature-based learning has been gathering momentum in this city. Dongguan Tongsha Ecological Park, Dongguan Botanical Garden and Huayang Lake have all become important sites for nature-based learning, where teenagers can get closer to nature, learn about various plants and animals, appreciate birds and flowers of different types, and participate in a variety of learning and research activities.
"The city of Dongguan is a new international example of what a city can do to build its future. Young people have the future in their hands. They are the ones who will have the responsibility to manage their city, to maintain the quality of city life, to preserve their heritage and to show the world that the model works. Young people in Europe will show their designs in the events and it will be the beginning of a new form of cooperation between generations," said Francesco Bandarin, Special Advisor to the Director General of ICCROM and former UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.