The Grand Canal system of China (or Da Yun He), 2400 years old and 1800km long, is being revitalized piece by piece. It once connected Beijing at its northernmost extension and Hanghzou at its southernmost point, with many cities in between. Despite the fact that the canal is no longer navigable between Beijing and the city of Jining in Shandong Province, about a third of its length, the remaining section south to Hangzhou remains in heavy use. The complete transport artery once connected China’s great west-to-east river systems, carrying the goods, taxes and official communications that sustained successive dynasties.
In Hangzhou a huge restoration project costing $250m has been under way since 2001 to clean up the effluent from textile and petrochemical factories lining the canal, combined with raw sewage from the surrounding suburbs, which had poisoned this section of the world’s oldest man-made waterway. Historical monuments and buildings have renewed protection, with walkways and parkland now lining sections of the canal and some of China’s most expensive apartment buildings have sprung up in what has become prime real estate.
For a growing number of activists campaigning for the preservation of the 1,794-kilometer canal and its many cultural and historical sites, this success is an important step in reversing almost two centuries of neglect, during which long sections of the waterway that links Hangzhou with the capital, Beijing, were abandoned or fell into disrepair.
“We can borrow from this experience,” said Zhu Bingren, a well-known Hangzhou artist who with fellow activists has called on the central and local governments to develop a comprehensive strategy for rehabilitating the canal. “It can’t be copied for every city, but a lot of experts are generally satisfied with Hangzhou’s method.”
More from the IHT here.
This is a very good example of local environmental activism working in China. The central government and many provincial cities now have the wealth to invest in projects that improve their city environments and invest in further wealth creation such as tourism.