Province works to preserve its black-and-white wonders
As an agricultural province famous for its cold－that is, winter－resources, Jilin has been making great efforts to conserve its precious ice, snow and black soil.
These gifts of nature have brought the province a range of environmental and economic benefits.
Rich in black soil, a type of highly fertile earth that takes hundreds of years to form a layer 1 centimeter thick, Jilin is China's major grain-producing province.
Annual grain output in the province has remained at more than 35 million metric tons for eight consecutive years. Last year, the province produced about 38 million tons, ranking it the fifth-largest grain producer among all China's provinces and regions, the provincial government said.
To prevent the fertility of the black soil from degrading and maintain productivity, the province has been undertaking conservation tillage, a form of tillage designed to minimize the use of plows and prevent the loss of topsoil.
Lishu county offers an example of the practice. After reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and covering fallow farmland with corn stalks to raise productivity, the county effectively countered agricultural pollution and conserved its soil resources.
Monitoring shows that over the past decade, the soil has become wetter, the amount of organic matter has risen in soil layers less than 20 cm thick and the number of earthworms per square meter has risen to about 100, Jilin Daily reported.
In recent years, the provincial government has provided legal and financial support for soil protection. In 2018, the provincial people's congress passed regulations on the protection of black soil which stipulated that anyone who damages the precious resource will be fined or prosecuted.
Last year, the provincial government allocated 720 million yuan ($111 million) in subsidies for conservation tillage across 1.23 million hectares of farmland.
Jiang Zelin, a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said food is the foundation of the national economy. Measures taken to ensure food security cannot be relaxed at any time.
"Situated in the world's golden corn and rice belt, Jilin is rich in arable land resources and fertile soil," he told Beijing News last year.
According to Jiang, black soil land accounts for 65 percent of the 7.03 million hectares of arable land in the province. The good environment and land resources provide plenty of scope for the development of agricultural modernization in the province.
"Agriculture in Jilin is accelerating its transition from the traditional to the modern, from labor-intensive to factor-intensive," he told the newspaper.
"The agricultural structure is gradually shifting from a single method of food supply to a diversified pattern of combinations of planting and breeding. The production structure has become more scientific and comprehensive."
On March 29, the provincial government and the Chinese Academy of Sciences signed an agreement in Changchun, Jilin's capital, to research black soil protection technology, the government said.
The two sides will carry out research on the mechanism of black soil evolution to aid its protection and utilization. They will also develop environmentally friendly measures and technologies, including the use of corn stalks to cover fallow land, improved machinery and cultivation techniques. They will also establish a data center for land protection and use, and a national black soil key laboratory.
Three black soil protection demonstration zones will be built in three cities in the province: Changchun; Siping; and Baicheng.
Located in the "golden latitude" for ice and snow, Jilin has seized the opportunity to make the best use of its natural resources.
Winter cultural tourism such as the snowy landscapes of Changbai Mountain, rime-filled scenery along the Songhua River and winter fishing in Chagan Lake are well-known at home and abroad.
Jilin's ice and snow fields also attract tourists from across the country. During the 2019-20 snow season, three ski resorts－Vanke Songhua Lake, Jilin Beidahu and Wanda Changbaishan－received a combined 1.1 million visitors, accounting for 44 percent of total tourist numbers at large ski resorts across the country, according to a report in Economic Information Daily.
"We need to turn cold resources into a hot industry and encourage potential tourists from the south to travel north," said Yang Andi, director of the Jilin Culture and Tourism Bureau.
"Jilin has natural powder snowfields. The tourism sector in our province aims to emulate the world's best-known ski resorts, including the Rocky Mountains in the United States and the Alps in Europe."
The region can build an international platform for ice and snow culture, economy, sports and trade, she added.
In December, the Fifth Jilin International Ice and Snow Industry Expo was held in Changchun, featuring nearly 80 venues and more than 400 participating businesses. During the New Year Holiday, from Jan 1 to 3, the Chagan Lake scenic spot received about 30,000 tourists, the lake's management committee said.
The spot, in Qian Gorlors Mongolian autonomous county, features ice-hole fishing, an activity that dates back to the Liao (916-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) dynasties.
In winter, fish are easy to catch and transport, so the tradition continues to this day. Tens of thousands of fish being caught through the ice is an eye-catching sight for tourists.
The lake committee said it maintains an environmental bottom line and follows the principle that no industrial projects are allowed, while tourism development activities that pose potential environmental risks are banned.
Restaurants, hotels, shops and entertainment venues must all be placed 8 kilometers from the lake shore to minimize pressure on the lake's ecosystem and environment, the committee said.
In March, Jiang, the CPPCC member, told People, an online news portal, that Jilin will accelerate the development of the ice and snow sector.
"It is the golden age of China's ice and snow sports that will flourish in the long term," Jiang said,"We should make full use of the natural resources, develop our ecotourism and create an internationally renowned ice and snow tourism center."
He told the website that the province is promoting the sector so it can be developed into a pillar industry and become a vital engine for the comprehensive revitalization of Northeast China.
"Skating, skiing, appreciating the rime, enjoying folk customs, winter fishing, ice lanterns, snow sculptures, horse racing, performing arts, entertainment and other special projects are the elements we need to develop further to boost tourism," he said.
He added that at the same time, the province should create an entire industry chain of a world-class ice and snow economy based on international standards. It will also need to build a modern ice and snow industry system to extend the sector's scope, strengthen the ability for innovation and improve the value chain.
Han Junhong contributed to this story.