May 26, 2017

Searching for China’s Water(14) 1,500,000 Yuan Observation Instrumen

Searching for China’s Water(14) 1,500,000 Yuan Observation Instruments are waiting to be used 
Words and Pictures by Yongchen Wang

 Suonandajie is as a symbol in China. It symbolizes a man who dares to sacrifice himself to protect wild animals. He had been killed in a battle with poachers when I first time heard of his name. His body had frozen a statue with a gun in his hand when people found him. His figure and name were deeply etched into my mind.
 I could not imagine that many years later, I was able to write in the same room where Suonandajie worked and sleep in the same bed that Suonandajie lived.

 Writing about rivers in the room where Suonandajie had lived

 It would have comforted Secretary Suonandajie that the Tibetan antelope population has risen and that poachers would have no opportunities to survive. The Soga Town where he had lived and worked has become the National Nature Reserve of Sanjiangyuan in Qinghai. According to research, there are three main types of wild animals in this reserve: the cold-driven species, the plateau alpine anima species, and a small amount of other widely-distributed species. There are 23 species of mammals, 45 species of birds, and a wide variety of amphibians and reptiles. In these species, 8 species are first-class, nationally protected animals, including the snow leopard, the Tibetan wild ass, the wild yak, the Tibetan gazelle, the white-lipped deer, the golden eagle, the bearded vulture, and the black-necked crane. There are also 12 species of second-class, nationally protected animals. Of these species, the snow leopard, the Tibetan antelope, and the argali are all on the red list of endangered species. The white-lipped deer, the wild yak, and the black-necked crane are listed as vulnerable species. The tibetan gazelle, the Himalayan blue sheep, and the Pallas's cat are also considered as the endangered speices.

Soga Wetlands  

Dangqu, the south source of the Yangtze River  INCLUDEPICTURE

Tibetan Kiang

 During our stay in Soga, there were thunderstorms every day. This made it difficult for us to realize our wish which is carefully observing the wild animals. We mostly saw Tibetan Kiang and Tibetan gazelles. We also managed to see some golden eagles, vultures, and some wolves. We very regretted that we were not able to take photos of them.
 Wetlands are a gene pool of species. Although the source of the Yangtze River is at a very high altitude, we have been walking at an altitude of 4500-4800 meters these days. The Soga Nature Reserve contains two main ecosystems, the alpine meadow ecosystem and the alpine grassland ecosystem. It also has large areas of marsh wetlands and small areas of shrubbery. The alpine meadow ecosystem is the largest, accounting for around 75% of the Soga Reserve's land. The following is the alpine grassland ecosystem which occupies about 12% of the area. The alpine wetland ecosystem is the third largest and there are little patches of shrubberies scattered among valleys and the north slope of mountains. The Alpine meadow ecosystem is located at around 4400-5200 meters and mainly consists of alpine kobresia, kobresia humilis, and line leaves. The alpine grassland ecosystem is located below the altitude of 4400 meters. The grassland's soil is drier than the soil and in the Alpine meadows, there is not obvious grass layers or no layers at all, and with a layer of gravel at the very bottom. The stipa purpurea, the stipa grandis, and sedges are the dominant species found in the grassland area. Between the altitude of 4600-5400 meters is an area of glaciers and rocks without any vegetation.

Wetlands at an altitude of 4,500 meters  

Planting grass

The waterline of the wetlands

In the Soga Town, no one can explains what the relationship is between the current grassland degradation and the global climate change. We met a team who grew grass on the wetlands. Although they kept looking for grass in order to show us what they had grown, we could not differentiate between the grass that was naturally there and the grass that they claimed that they planted

 The team told us that their species of grass is suitable to the wetlands and was developed by experts and Not only did the government pay them to plant the grass, but they were also going to inspect the growth of the grass in the future.

 I asked Nima Secretary, ‘what is the purpose of planting grass here?’ Nima said with some frustration that the grass was grown by companies and that the government had no right to control where they planted the grass. They did not plant the grass where the government wanted but planted the grass beside roads where livestock would not graze and it is an easy way to plant grass there.

 The reason for planting grass should be very clear. Originally, if the government paid the bill, it is justifiable to restore the grasslands by planting grass, no matter it is from companies or individuals. However, the information of the operation was not public, everything was ok if things were done well; but it had the potential to destroy the fragile ecological environment if things were not done correctly,

 In the river source area before rain  

Dark clouds come quickly in the river source area

 The Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve was founded in 2000, and in January 2003, it was promoted to a National Nature Reserve in order to better protect the plateau wetland ecosystems. Its total area covers 15,230 square kilometers, accounting for about 21% of the Qinghai Province. There are 18 protection zones throughout the Nature Reserve, including 8 wetland protection zones, 3 wild animal protection zones, and 7 forest shrub protection zones. The administrative region of the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve involves in Yushu, Guoluo, Hainan, the Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and 16 counties of the Haixi Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, covering the source areas of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang rivers.  

Weather, solar energy, and monitoring station  INCLUDEPICTURE

They have been here for 6 years  INCLUDEPICTURE

A lot of rules and regulations

 Of course, government pays lots of attentions to such an important area. 6 years ago, the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve Administration spent 1.5 million Yuan in establishing the Soga solar power station, the Soga automatic meteorological observation station, and the Soga provincial wildlife disease monitoring station in the Soga Town. However, over the past six years, the equipments of the monitoring station had been idle there because no one knew how to use them.

 The Soga monitoring station is not the only station in the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve. Yong Yang said that there are two other equally large monitoring stations in Sanjiangyuan: the Kekexili and Maduo monitoring stations. They were also idle because there are no professionals to work there.  


The border pillar of the protected area has already fallen

 Ecological monitoring in Sangjiangyuan

 Are these places not important, or is 1.5 million Yuan not enough? Otherwise, why are there so many multi-functional monitoring equipments and protection facilities that are just sitting there and staying unused?

In the Soga Township, we met people of the CPPCC who came to do research here. They emphasized that the water of the river source area had been decreasing over past a few years. Lanbang, the vice chairman of the CPPCC, told us that over the past decade, there has been an increase in variety of disasters in the river source area. The area has not even recovered from a snowstorm from 1985. There were one million heads of livestock in the Soga Town in the 70s of the last century. After the snowstorm of 1985, disasters have become very often, and currently the Soga Township has less than 600 thousand heads of livestock.
"Snow marbles" in the river source area

Walking through hail 
Suffering the baptism of hail 

Originally, it is not difficult to see black-necked cranes in Soga, unfortunately, there were constant rainstorms and hail today, thus, we did not see any of them until later evening. I dragged Nima Secretary with me to the riverside of Dangqu in order to see the cranes, however, we suffered hail before we could reach the riverside,

Dangqu in heavy rain  INCLUDEPICTURE

The plateau meadow after hail

Facing the hail, Nima and I walked at the plateau meadow. Although it was painful when the dense hail hit my face and got me completely soaked, I felt as if I were experiencing a baptism in nature. It is a feeling that could never be felt while people living in cities. Thus, at that moment, I decided to give the 18-200 lens of my Canon 400D camera to Nima. I hoped it would help him photograph the beautiful wildlife that lived on the plateau and in the river source areas.
Nima, a plateau guy, said, "I must take photos of the wildlife of Soga"

Today, we help China Finding Water Team to  donate a number of school supplies and sporting goods to and the Soga Township Primary School. I have also donated them a Green Home reading room. We hope that they will no longer let the valuable, scientific equipment situated there and stayed unused for another 6 years when these children grow up,. 
Herdsmen and their herds come back after a rain

Study well and make progress every day
 Proofreader:Ryan Yu

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