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Yancheng's green transformation acclaimed at World Coastal Forum

© Provided by Xinhua

NANJING, Sept. 26 (Xinhua) -- The highlight of every August at the Tiaozini wetland is the arrival of millions of migratory birds.

Lying halfway along the East Asia-Australasia Flyway, a packed route taken by 50 million waterfowl every year, Tiaozini wetland in Yancheng, east China's Jiangsu Province, is a wonderland for migratory birds and bird lovers alike.

Since July, wildlife photographer Li Dongming has been making frequent visits to Tiaozini to greet his old pals.

"They're late this year," Li said, frowning as he scanned the shallows with his long-focus lens. "Waiting for them every year is like waiting for a child to arrive home for the summer vacation. Even just one day late weighs heavily in my mind," said Li, an "old bird" with 13 years' experience of photographing birds.

On Aug. 1, his gaze was finally arrested by a familiar creature, a spoon-billed sandpiper. This small wading bird is one of the world's most endangered species. While its global population is estimated at around just 600, more than one-third of this number use Yancheng as a stopover.

Yancheng boasts a coastline of 582 km and 769,700 hectares of wetlands. Over the past decades, local authorities have made enormous efforts to balance economic development and biodiversity conservation, building a harmonious community between human and animal.

The bird's nests on streetlights, wire poles and transmission towers, for example, were once a big headache.

When Jiang Cheng had just started working at the State Grid's Yancheng branch over 10 years ago, he was told to destroy the bird's nests as their droppings would cause power cuts. Now he is a member of the company's bird protection team.

"Through continuous improvement of harmless bird repellents or baffles, more than 280 straw bird nests have been built in safe locations, and the trip-out rate caused by bird activities has been reduced by 60 percent in recent years," noted Jiang.

While laying out an ambitious plan to boost its wind-power industry, Yancheng gives priority to minimizing its impact on migratory birds.

In 2019, the Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the coast of the Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf (Phase I) in Yancheng was inscribed on the World Heritage List as a natural site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

At the ongoing 2023 World Coastal Forum (WCF), Yancheng's green transformation has won widespread applause from attendees from around the world.

Themed "Our Coasts: Harmony between People and Nature," the forum has attracted nearly 1,000 participants from 34 countries, covering issues such as addressing challenges in coastal wetland conservation, ensuring sustainable development in coastal regions, and raising awareness in coastal ecosystem conservation.

Having been to Tiaozini six times since 2014, Nicola Crockford, principle policy officer of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is impressed at how Yancheng strikes a good balance between economic growth and environmental protection.

"I know there have been big financial implications and there have been sacrifices for protecting nature," said Crockford at the WCF. "But now we can see that Yancheng is attracting many tourists and all of the other services based on the healthy ecosystem in Yancheng is showing a lot of promise, and I hope that other countries, too, can learn about how Yancheng manages to balance the books while conserving its globally important nature."

"Yancheng is constantly experimenting between development and preserving nature and reclaiming land from the sea," said George Yeo, former minister of foreign affairs of Singapore in his speech at the opening ceremony. "So I think there's a lot of knowledge being gained here, and there's much which Yancheng can share with others, but also to learn from others."

Despite the change of seasons, every year, as the hoped-for fluffy creatures descend on the picturesque wetland, they bear witness to Yancheng's unremitting efforts to safeguard their habitats. This is also what Li Dongming, Jiang Cheng and residents in Yancheng find most fulfilling.

"The chirping of birds is nature within our reach," said Zhu Yuan, a white-collar worker who recently fell in love with bird-watching.