Norbu Samdrup, a ranger in the Sanjiangyuan National Park, northwest China’s Qinghai province, was excited to see once again the familiar grassland in his hometown of Tanggulashan town in the province.
Sixteen years ago, Norbu and his family left Tanggulashan town, Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Qinghai province and migrated to Changjiangyuan village, also an ecological relocation site, in the southern suburbs of Golmud city in the prefecture.
It was when the Sanjiangyuan Naitonal Park, where his hometown was located, began trial operation that the herdsman Norbu started to protect his hometown as a ranger.
The Sanjiangyuan National Park has been built to protect the Sanjiangyuan area, known as China’s “water tower” because it houses the headwaters of three great rivers of the country: the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Lancang rivers.
Since the trial operation, the park has always respected the principal position of herdsmen in ecological conservation, actively set up public welfare jobs of rangers, and formulated regulations on the management of rangers and detailed rules for evaluating their performances.
“It is our herdsmen’s unshirkable responsibility to protect the grassland in Tanggulashan town,” said Norbu. When he learned that the national park was recruiting rangers, the herdsman, who had been away from his hometown for more than ten years, and now lives in a bright house in Changjiangyuan village and owns an off-road vehicle, signed up without hesitation.
Recruits like Norbu have to receive training first. The park has cultivated a team of coaches who can speak both Tibetan and Putonghua to train all rangers and improve their abilities in ecological monitoring.
Norbu has been trained to identify rare wild animals and use infrared cameras, among many other skills. The qualified ranger now returns to the Tanggula’s grassland once every month and patrols in his designated areas for about a week each time.
Specifically, he monitors grassland carrying capacity and balance between grass and livestock, prevents actions that damage the environment, estimates wildlife populations, and publicizes laws, regulations and relevant policies.
“The environment of the grassland is improving, and we have to make greater efforts to protect it from damage,” Norbu said.
In recent years, China has heightened the ecological protection and construction of the Sanjiangyuan area, constantly improving the grassland environment.
Since 2005, it has launched phase I and II of the Sanjiangyuan ecological protection project and comprehensively implemented programs such as combating sandification, returning grazing land to grassland, and ecological relocation.
After five years of efforts, the trend of grassland degeneration was effectively contained in the Sanjiangyuan area.
The annual average water conservation volume grew by over 6 percent, and the grassland coverage and grass yield also rose by over 11 percent and 30 percent respectively from a decade ago. The quantity of water resources in Sanjiangyuan increased by about 8 billion cubic meters, equals to 560 times the amount of the West Lake in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province.
At present, the Sanjiangyuan National Park has recruited 17,211 certified rangers like Norbu and basically put in place an organized system including management and protection stations in towns, village-level teams as well as groups.
Local herdsmen have also benefitted from the improving ecology. Qinghai government has granted 372 million yuan (about $56.8 million) of eco-compensation annually, increasing the yearly income of each household by an average of 21,600 yuan.
The rangers are well received by local herdsmen as they often publicize the latest poverty alleviation policies in addition to regular ecological monitoring.
“The ranger program to monitor the environment has motivated herdsmen to participate in the construction of the national park and strongly boosted poverty alleviation,” said He Wancheng, director of the Sanjiangyuan National Park administration bureau.