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UPDATED: August 29, 2014 NO. 35 AUGUST 28, 2014
Flowing Through Time
Beijing ramps up efforts to preserve the heritage of its millennia-old Grand Canal
By Ding Ying

Future protection plan

Even during the application period, maintenance was conducted to protect and preserve the waterways and historical sites along the Grand Canal, and achieved good results. Targets were set to sustain related work, explore further usage, and enhance protection efforts along the canal in the future.

"Being named a World Heritage Site is only the beginning. Future protection, preservation and management will be tougher challenges for listed sites," Shao told Beijing Review. He warned that if a place fails to meet the standard requirements of UNESCO, it will be put on a list of endangered sites. In the future, if the condition of the place has not improved, it will likely have its title removed, which has happened before in other countries.

"World Heritage Sites are generally 'living,' which means that they are still in use," said Shao. The Beijing section of the canal has been kept in use and in good condition, especially as a tourist attraction. Thus, future preservation and protection should not pose a tough challenge for the city, Shao added.

From 2000-07, the Beijing Municipal Government implemented measures to protect the city's historical sites, including the waterways and buildings along the canal, at a total cost of 330 million yuan ($53.7 million). The Dongbuya Bridge is one of the points of interest that was discovered and repaired during that period. The Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage then conducted studies of the canal in 2007, completing the selection of heritage sites along the canal. In May 2009, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage confirmed the selection of 40 various heritage sites along the city's section of the Grand Canal, and in 2013, Beijing invested over 30 million yuan ($4.9 million) on renovations for the selected historical areas, greatly improving conditions there.

At a meeting on June 25 regarding the protection and management of the canal's Beijing section, the Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage outlined its plan to strengthen the preservation of the canal sites. These sites cover a total area of 7,781 hectares and fall into three categories: waterways and water sources, bridges and sluices, as well as ancient relics and architecture.

According to the administration, the city has established management and monitoring systems for the canal sites. Wang Yuwei, an official with the administration, noted that the government will focus on improving the monitoring of the environment, water quality and river flow. This protection will cover all 40 heritage sites, including those that have not yet been selected for inclusion in the UNESCO listing. Wang said that many water bodies in the Beijing section perform landscape and drainage functions, with some lakes serving as reservoirs. Also, some bridges are still in use today.

According to Beijing's protection plan, a water pollution prevention and control system is under construction through 2015. By then, industrial pollution sources inside the canal area will operate under national emission standards. The water ecosystem will be rehabilitated. Moreover, a cruise line along the Tonghui River will open in 2015 as well, allowing people to enjoy the river scenery by boat. The following year, archaeological projects in the ruins of the dynasties from 581-1234 will be completed, and by 2030, protective measures and usage of the canal section in Beijing will match the city's pace of modernization.

Wang said that canal sites vying for inclusion into the UNESCO listing are now undergoing renovations for further assessment. It is hoped that these sites will be added in the future, he said.

Email us at: dingying@bjreview.com

World Heritage Sites in Beijing

Forbidden City

Great Wall

Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Summer Palace

Temple of Heaven

Imperial Tombs of the Ming Dynasty

Grand Canal

(Compiled by Beijing Review)

Grand Canal Overview

The Grand Canal, the world's longest artificial river, runs 1,776 km to connect China's Yangtze and Yellow rivers. Starting in Beijing, the canal first winds its way through the city of Tianjin and then southeast through Hebei, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces all the way to Hangzhou. It was designed to connect different water systems in these provinces, serving as a link between the country's northern and southern regions.

In addition to the canal's frequent usage as a shipping, irrigation and land-draining source, it has been a major grain transportation passage for over 2,000 years. Some of the canal's oldest segments can be traced back as far as the fifth century B.C. About 16 times as long as the Suez Canal and 33 times that of the Panama Canal, China's Grand Canal has made great contributions to economic growth, cultural development and communication across the country's vast expanses, perhaps most especially in agricultural and economic development and urbanization along the canal.

(Compiled by Beijing Review)

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