The Yangtze River tumbles down from the roof of the world down to Yunnan’s Diqing, Lancan and Nujiang rivers. Where they meet can be found the “Three Rivers Confluence. An elderly Tibetan by the name of Sinanduoji often makes rounds up into the Meri Snow Mountains to found a grove of old cyprus trees. At one point, he intentionally took a picture of three people wrapping their arms around the trunk of a tree hugging it. “If illegal logging in the 1990s was not stopped all of these old trees would have been long gone.” Sinanduoji said that in the 1960s, large scale logging was started in the Diqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture in the Dianxi area. At the peak, 70% of county government revenues came from the forestry industry. Moreover, primitive slash and burn agricultural methods caused the Jinsha river’s ecological environment (at the upper reaches of Yangtze river) experience rapid negative changes.
After 1998, in order to restore the natural system, one after another plots of agricultural land were restored into forest areas all along the Jinsha river. This included soil preservation work amongst other projects. Sinanduoji also became a forest protector. There are many that changed into this role along side him including hunters and lumberjacks. “This year during our trip to the mountains we photographed all kinds of rare wild animals and plants.” The changes from which Sinanduoji protects the Meri Snow Mountains from is a microcosm of things done along the entire Yangtze River and even in the entire Yunnan province. Up until 2015 year end, the forest area coverage in Yunnan increased by 375 million acres and total forest area coverage reached about 20 million hectares.
The forest coverage improved from 40.66% in 1996 to 55.7% in 2015. About 80% of major species and 90% of ecological systems reached a status of actual protection. Yet what is more exciting is the changes in people. When revisiting households along the Jinsha river basin, it is not hard to find people that deeply experienced and understood why they should say “in the past as we got poorer we cut more and more, yet later we understood that true wealth comes from maintaining green hills and clear waters”.