Project Locations: Shangri-la

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Situated on the edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in the north western corner of Yunnan province, SHANGRI-LA is one of the most biologically and culturally rich, but least economically privileged areas of the world. At the heart of the UNESCO world heritage site of the Parallel Rivers (Yangtze, Mekong and Salween), the Greater Shangri-la region is of global ecological importance, not only as the site of some of the earth’s most diverse ecosystems but also as an important resource to much of the population in Asia, who rely on these great rivers for their livelihood.

Hundreds of endemic plants are found in this region, such as the oleander and the indigenous tsi-tog, as are dozens of endemic animal and bird species including several Class I protected: the Yunnan Golden Monkey, Snow Leopard, Red Panda, and Black-necked Crane. Shangri-la is also home to many different ethnic groups and a rich cultural diversity. For generations, many of these ethnic groups including Tibetans, Lisu, Yi and Naxi among others, have lived in harmony with the landscape and natural environment, drawing on indigenous knowledge, traditional practices and Buddhist environmental philosophies. Yet, as Shangri-la begins to open up and develop into an international tourist destination, its communities are faced with serious environmental and economic pressures making the conservation of this region more critical then ever before.

• Water School for a Living Yangtze

Shangri-la is one of the key sites for the Water School for a Living Yangtze programme, with 9 schools currently taking part. Among these participants is the Dongzhulin School for Young Monks, part of an old Tibetan Monastery set in the mountains above the Upper reaches of the River Yangtze. Since 2008, Shangri-la Institute has been working closely with the school in implementing a wide range of conservation activities (such as a Jinsha River investigation, community education on environment protection, tree-planting etc), with an emphasis on utilising traditional culture and Buddhist philosophies to inform sustainable nature conservation.

Also joining in 2008 was Hongwei Primary School, which is focused on protecting the Longtan River running past their school, through Shangri-la town and into the Napa Lake wetlands. This river does not only supply drinking water for the city’s residents, but it is also used as irrigation water for nearby villages. However, in recent years it has become extremely polluted as a result of the untreated sewage and waste directly disposed into the river by riverbank hotels, farms and factories. Joining together with members of the local community, the school is currently implementing ‘Protect Our Mother River’ activities, which promotes joint action such as litter picking, water-quality, monitoring, tree watering and putting up signs.

• Community Education for Sustainable Development

To date, we have been with local communities and stakeholders in the development of 9 Community Learning Centres (CLC) around the Shangri-la area. These CLCs have been established as a means of building local capacity, as well as enhancing knowledge, skills and values at the individual level through a range of training and activities.

Kesong village, on the edge of Napa Lake wetlands, is one of the largest CLCs and was established in 2009 to provide a platform for communities as well as a range of training courses in sustainable development and cultural preservation, including: eco-tourism and small enterprise development, women’s health, sustainable water management, Tibetan language and Tangka painting classes. The Kesong Centre also serves as a demonstration of eco-living, comprising a natural wetlands water treatment system, an efficient rainwater collection system, extensive use of solar energy equipment and unique composting toilets.

• Eco-Tourism

Completed in 2006, Baima Xueshan Nature Reserve eco-lodge is the starting point for our community based eco-tourism initiative. A joint scheme between Shangri-la Institute, nature reserve staff and local nomadic herders, the lodge was constructed by local communities using local resources and provides tourism opportunities with minimal ecological impact.

Still in its early stages, the overall goal of our eco-tourism project is to establish a financially, ecologically, culturally, and educationally successful tourism business in Baima Xueshan Nature Reserve. The tourism project will provide a unique experience for visitors, which includes travelling through some of the most rugged and remote landscapes, and seeing one of the most important and beautiful nature reserves in China. Within the context of the tourism project, environmental and cultural protection will be first and foremost. Moreover, the project will generate income dedicated to improving the lives of local villagers, protecting wildlife and the environment, and educating both locals and tourists about the region’s natural and cultural history.

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