Officials say no risk to park from Olympics

By Yuen Yeuk-laam Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-8 0:18:01

Yanqing government claims nature reserve will get 31% expansion

Beijing's Yanqing county government on Wednesday refuted recent speculations that the local national nature reserve would be replaced by 2022 Winter Olympics venues but clarified that the reserve is protected and will be expanded by 31 percent.

Songshan National Nature Reserve was located at Beijing's Haituo Mountain in Yanqing. The 2,242-meter-high Haituo Mountain has three peaks, Da Haituo, Xiao Haituo, and San Haituo.

Speculation began when the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee proposed in February that Alpine skiing and sledding games would be held on Xiao Haituo  if China wins the bid.

Rumors further escalated in late July as some hikers found that Da Haituo was closed.

"According to reliable sources, Beijing's only National Nature Reserve will be turned into a skiing venue, which will pose a damaging impact to the local valuable and rare ecosystem. The mountain has already closed for visits," a Weibo post that has gone viral since July 31 wrote.

In response, Zhang Suzhi, the vice county head of Yanqing, said on Wednesday that Songshan National Nature Reserve is currently adjusting its coverage in order to better protect the regional ecological environment. The reserve will be expanded by 31 percent to 6,122 hectares, the Beijing News reported.

"We planned to include the mountain areas on the east of the reserve park and exclude the northern region of the original reserve area," she said.

"After adjustment, the number of vegetation species will be increased from 20 to 29. Biological resources will be diversified and a more comprehensive ecosystem created, which improve the reserve's conservation value," Zhang added.

She explained that the Winter Olympics venues will not be held inside the nature reserve as the government attaches great importance to environment protection, adding that environmental friendly materials will be used to build the Games facilities while measures such as controlling visitors will be applied to minimize human damage to the local environment.

Wang Tao, a scholar with the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, told the Global Times that there is no doubt that the Chinese government's environmental protection awareness has increased in recent years and that could be reflected in government promises such as improving air quality.

Zhang Zhixiang, a professor at the School of Nature Conservation of Beijing Forestry University, said the public does not need to worry that the construction of Olympic venues will affect the ecosystem because all construction projects are required to protect vegetation. Also  ski facilities need both ski tracks and a forest environment, so the nearby forest will be protected.

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