With the 2022 Winter Olympics awarded to a parched area of China, environmental issues were always going to be on the radar.
The Olympic Committee announced as much when it said that an issue of particular concern was the Yanqing Songshan ecological park, located near one of the planned Olympic venues.
When hikers found that some Songshan facilities were closed, China’s microblogging service Weibo went a little nuts over the news that the government may have pulled a rather blunt trick and declassified the nature reserve from its reserve status, thus solving the problem of the venue’s proximity to a park in a very cynical way.
Environmentalists were naturally concerned, as the reserve’s functions vary from conserving endangered species to even preserving water resources and warding off sandstorms, with which the reserve’s official website self-claims it “the best-preserved ecological system.”
In an effort to dispel the rumors, Zhang Suzhi—the vice county head of Yanqing—clarified last Wednesday that the nature reserve was actually being expanded by 31% and that it would add nine new vegetation species under its protection.
But while on the surface this sounds great, there are some nagging questions—the Global Times report cites Zhang as saying “We planned to include the mountain areas on the east of the reserve park and exclude the northern region of the original reserve area.”
Which raises the question as to whether the expansion of the nature park is an effort to cloak the fact that other park areas have been removed from the protected zone to make way for the Olympics. But with the overall area being expanded to include new species and save more land, this may ultimately be a moot point, or one for ecologists to argue over.
Overview of the Games here!