Sanjiangyuan National Park

Why is Sanjiangyuan so important

Located in the hinterland of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an average altitude of over 4,000 meters and a total area of 395,000 square kilometers, the Sanjiangyuan area is an important water source for China and even Asia. The Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang Rivers all originate from here. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers are the mother rivers of the Chinese nation and the Lancang River is an important international river that flows through six countries.

The total drainage area of these three rivers is close to one third of the total area of China. 700 million people reside within the basin, accounting for more than half of the total population of China. To a certain extent, the three rivers have laid the foundation of lives for the Chinese people. However, 25% of the total water flow of the Yangtze River, 49% of the Yellow River and 15% of the Lancang River come from the Sanjiangyuan area. The Tibetan people living here are mainly nomadic herders. This way of life, which consumes very little water, frees up the space for people from downstream areas to use water.

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the Sanjiangyuan area is located, is the youngest plateau on the planet. Its re-creation from flat land to plateau has profoundly influenced the geographical pattern of China, making the southeastern part of China avoid the fate of desertification and become a livable “land of fish and rice”. It also helped the formation of the Loess Plateau with loose soil in the northwest as well as large water systems such as the Yangtze River, Yellow River and Lancang River.

Therefore, the Sanjiangyuan area, located in the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, has become an important water-conserving area for China and even Asia. It is also known as the “Water Tower of China”, occupying an irreplaceable eco-strategic position due to its unique climatic characteristics, special geographical location and rich gene diversity.



Source: Sanjiangyuan Nationa Park Website

The Birth of Sanjiangyuan National Park

The concept of "National Park" first originated in the United States, where the world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, was born. So, what is a national park?

A national park is a landscape that protects a large area of natural ecosystems, geological sites, species, and places that have natural aesthetic and cultural values. It is nationally representative, and can provide public benefit in education, recreation, and research opportunities for current and future generations. Compared to scenic areas where aesthetic experience is the main goal, national parks are areas with the highest ecological value in terms of originality and integrity.

In 2021, at Leaders’ Summit of the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties To the Convention on Biological Diversity, President Xi Jinping announced the formal establishment of the first five national parks, including Sanjiangyuan, Giant Panda, Northeast China Tiger and Leopard, Hainan Tropical Rainforest and Wuyi Mountain. In 2017, the Overall Plan for Establishing the National Park System jointly issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council mentioned that “based on strengthening the protection of the originality and integrity of the natural ecosystem, with the goal of achieving national ownership, public sharing, and heritage,” the national park will “provide the public with opportunities to get close to nature, experience nature, understand nature, and recreation as a national welfare,” as well as “increase publicity efforts, enhance the effectiveness of publicity, foster the national park culture, spread the national park concept, and highlight the value of national parks.”

Therefore, Sanjiangyuan National Park not only needs to conserve, exhibit and inherit nature and culture, provide recreational places for tourists, but also undertakes the goal to establish and demonstrate an innovative regional conservation and development model, thus promoting and guaranteeing the comprehensive conservation and coordinated development of an important ecological function area of national strategic importance.

Episode 1 of National Parks, documentary jointly produced by National Forestry and Grassland Administration and Xinhua News

How National Parks Balance Conservation and Development

Unlike the United States, Canada and other countries that have large wilderness and uninhabited areas with few people living within the boundaries of national parks, China often encounters problem of having residents living in the area before the national park project began. How do communities develop in harmony with the national parks has thus become an important issue. Since 2018, the national parks have implemented the One Ranger Per Household policy, with each family having one ecological ranger, increasing local residents’ income and protecting the ecological system at the same time.

At present, Sanjiangyuan National Park is divided into core conservation zones, ecological conservation and restoration zones, and traditional utilization zones according to ecosystem functions and conservation objectives. Among these, traditional utilization zones are for the traditional living and production of local herders and can be moderately developed for ecological experience and industries.

Angsai Township is located in the Lancang River Section of Sanjiangyuan National Park, which belongs to Zaduo County of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and consists of three villages (Niandu Village, Reqing Village, and Surao Village) with a total of more than 8,000 herders. In 2018, the nature watch pilot project of Angsai started. It is authorized by the management station of Angsai in Lancang River Section of Sanjiangyuan National Park. In this project, local herders serve as nature watch guides, drivers and host families, leading nature watch participants to view the natural and cultural landscape and experience the pastoral life in the township of Angsai.

Nature watch program integrates nature conservation and social development. By serving as guides and host families, local herders can earn additional income and realize that protecting their home landscape and animals will benefit their own families and communities.


Source: Sanjiangyuan Nationa Park Website