Our Programme Foci
Wisdom of Nature
Where We Work: Yunnan

The Indissoluble Bond between Elderly Associations, Longchuan River and Its Surrounding Environment

The Yongsheng Elderly Association invited primary and secondary school students in Jietou’s county seat to visit farms that practice rice-fish farming and to take part in activities, such as catching fish, as ways for them to experience Nature. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve)

Li Changlian (PCD Programme Partner, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve, Yunnan)
Li Ziyue (Programme Officer, PCD)

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The golden sea of rapeseed flowers beneath the Gaoligong Mountains is a one of the most attractive scenes of Jietou Township. (Ai Huaisen) Since the Elderly Association launched its activities, the pollution of the water source and the river near Datang Village located at the source of Longchuan River has been alleviated. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve)
A seminar was organised by Datang Elderly Association to explore ways to conserve fish and the river basin. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve) Members of Yongan Elderly Association held a meeting on ways to publicise their environmental protection activities. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve)
To raise awareness in other villagers on reducing garbage and not littering, members of Yongan Elderly Association went into town to clear the garbage there. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve) Working with a school, Yongan Elderly Association organised students to go to the marketplace to promote reducing garbage at source, garbage segregation and the hazards of garbage. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve)
 
The Yongsheng Elderly Association invited primary and secondary school students in Jietou’s county seat to visit farms that practice rice-fish farming and to take part in activities, such as catching fish, as ways for them to experience Nature. (Ye Jiangfang, Tengchong Management Division of the Baoshan Management Bureau for the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve)  

Jietou is a beautiful township in Tengchong situated at the foot of the mountains of Gaoligong Mountain. In spring Jietou is covered with wild flowers while the field is a sea of golden rapeseed flowers. Longchuan Jiang, the mother river of Tengchong, is the source of life for people living on its banks. It flows from the Gaoligong Mountains and meanders through the garden-like basin like a jade ribbon, passing through townships such as Qushi, Mangbang, Wuhe and Xinhua and flowing through the counties of Longling and Luxi before it joins Ruili River and empties into the Indian Ocean. With the support of PCD, the Tengchong Management Division for the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Reserve partnered with the three elderly associations in Jietou, launching a community based ecological and biodiversity conservation project and re-invigorating the passion of the members of the association for the river basin.  An indissoluble bond has developed between the elderly people and the river basin as they engage in conservation projects, creating small but numerous stories, giving off light like the twinkling stars at night.

As Human Beings, We Must Do Good and Not Pollute the River

Datang, a village in Jietou, is located at the source of Longchuan River. There are 11 village committees, and all villagers live on the river bank. Over the last few decades, thanks to the building of highways and the opening of markets, the village economy has been thriving. However, the influx of fashionable goods and modern food products have changed the local traditional lifestyle drastically and produced large volumes of man-made garbage, such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, beverage buckets, plastic mulch, fast food, packaging materials and old clothes. Moreover, for convenience villagers often throw their garbage into the river, thinking that it will wash the garbage away. From where Jietou is located up to the Indian Ocean, the river basin is now polluted to various degrees, something that requires reflection and action.

Dong Baozhen, a member of Datang Elderly Association, has always been concerned about the garbage problem. Though it would be impossible for him to stop others from polluting the river by himself, he firmly believes that there is always a chance as long as he works hard. He became the chairman of the association in 2013 while also acting as the head of Sanchongxi Temple. During a village-wide festival commemorating the birth of a deity, he talked about “virtuous education” and “protecting marine life”. Using these as entry points, he began to talk about conserving the river basin, telling the villagers that “the types of virtue that are fostered depend on the tao that is practiced” and that “everything has its causes and consequences”. He reminded the villagers that there were hundreds of thousands of people living along the lower reaches of the river, which is also the source of drinking water for these people. As Datang is located at the source of the river, the villagers should not act unethically and dump garbage into the river. The water has its spirits, the rivers have dragon spirits and the oceans have dragon kings. When the water is polluted, the gods get angry resulting in floods. When the rivers are polluted, the dragon gods are enraged and make the mountains shake, causing landslides. When the oceans are polluted, the dragon kings become furious too and cause tsunamis. Datang is located at the source of the river and the gods know immediately even if there is only a bit of pollution. That is why one must never dump garbage, wash poisonous waste or catch fish in the river. Rivers are the life source of all forms of life. Respecting and caring for water at the source of rivers are good deeds and acts of virtue, as well as a practice of tao.

Love Your Streams

Gangmian River is a tributary of Longchuan River. Its source is a stream in the mountain at the back of Yongsheng Village. The stream is very clear and flows through the village throughout the year before it empties into Longchuanjiang. It is the main source of water for drinking and irrigation in Yongsheng. For hundreds and thousands of years, the stream was clear, fresh and limpid, and its music played in the background at night for the villagers. However, in recent years, this beautiful scenery has been tarnished by garbage and pollution caused by the use of pesticides.

In 2015, the elderly people of Yongsheng Elderly Association began to take actions. They advocated the ecological farming of rice and fish as a means to reduce pesticides as a source of pollution. They have also been monitoring pesticide use and organising activities to protect the environment, such as conducting educational activities on conserving biodiversity. Under the leadership of Chen Liming, the chairman of the Elderly Association, a group of elderly people have been clearing pollutants and garbage using only hoes and bags. Moved by the actions of the elderly people, many villagers joined in. It is always with pride when Yongsheng villagers say that "in Jietou, only Yongsheng folks are drinking and using water that flows from its own hills, something that other villages do not have the fortune to enjoy. Gangmianhe is our stream and we must love and care for it."

Picturesque from Afar but Dirty Closer Up

Going into Yongan in Jietou in Spring, one cannot but feel intoxicated by the scenery. Driving on the highway or treading the paths in the village feels like swimming in a yellow sea of rapeseed flowers, which spread far and wide like a golden velvet rug.

Embraced by the beautiful sea of flowers, Yongan, a village surrounded by mountains, water and fields, is indeed a landscape painting created by Nature itself. However, while Yongan is picturesque from afar, it is quite dirty when one takes a closer look. Yongan’s market has been flourishing and people enjoy a high standard of living. As the desire for material consumption grows, the volume of imported goods has increased drastically. This has led to more garbage in the marketplace as well as an increase in household garbage. The garbage is piled up in various locations in the village. Whenever there is a strong wind, the garbage is blown all over the place. In the rainy season, the garbage floats through the streets whenever it rains and is washed into Longchuan Jiang, polluting the river. Even though the local government has been collecting and incinerating the garbage, there are still problems: 1. There are areas that have been overlooked; 2. It is very difficult to maintain cleanliness; 3. The volume of garbage is huge.

In 2015, with PCD’s support, Yong'an Elderly Association launched a small project under the theme, “Care for Our Health, Pay Attention to Our Garbage”. The objective is to encourage the community to deal with the garbage at its source. In the words of the elderly association, it is to “lower the production rate of garbage”. To achieve this goal, they have launched various activities: 1. Members of the association were organised into dance troupes to visit different local communities to give performances promoting love of one’s hometown, cleanliness and environment; 2. To increase the impact of their activities, students of Yongan’s main school were organised to visit the marketplace on market days in order to publicise the activities; 3. To raise awareness, the leaders and the propaganda team of the elderly association volunteered to carry out a major clean-up of the town; 4. Members of the association were divided into small groups to visit every family in the village to explain and to supervise them on how to segregate garbage into paper, plastics and metals which can be sold and recycled and to bring garbage that cannot be recycled to garbage trucks; 5. The association is also surveying and monitoring the volume of garbage produced each day in Yongan. Since they launched their project over a year ago, the volume of garbage produced in Yongan each day has gone from 2.5 tonnes down to 1.8 tonnes.

The effort of the three elderly associations has touched the hearts of villagers of their communities. The latter have begun to show their concern for the conservation of the Longchuan River Basin, and different approaches have been explored to improve the environment of their hometown, such as building an ecological community, education on ecological ethics, and promoting the dream of a beautiful hometown.

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