Investigation | Yangguan Forest Site: “Land Competition” Between Shelterbelts and Vineyards
2021/2/1 13:56:00 本站

In the days when all kinds of entertainment gossip were frequent, the news that "Dunhuang's 10,000 mu of desert shelterbelt was destroyed" broke out of the siege abruptly and appeared in hot searches on Weibo. As of press time, this topic has 800 million reads and 453,000 comments, which shows the public's attention to the incident.


The public attention is not without reason. According to Economic Information Daily, the state-owned Dunhuang Yangguan Forest Site, located on the eastern edge of the Kumtag Desert and once owned about 20,000 mu of the "Three North" Shelterbelt, is the first and the last sand green screen barrier in Dunhuang, Gansu Province. However, in more than a decade, it continued to suffer from large-scale “head-shaving” style of logging, there is not much left in the logging of more than 10,000 mu of public welfare protection forest. The land vacated after being felled is used to grow grapes. Recently, Gansu Province has established an investigation team to conduct a detailed investigation on the matter.


The reporter noticed that as early as 2018, the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) began to pay close attention to the destruction of the shelter forest in Yangguan Forest Site. After on-site investigation and evidence collection, an environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) complaint was submitted to the Gansu Mining District People's Court in March 2019, but the progress of the case can be described as difficult.


"We will eventually usher in the dawn of victory. Of course, the process may be complicated and arduous." Ma Yong, Deputy Secretary-General of CBCGDF, expressed optimistically in an interview with the reporter.


A public interest litigation that lasted for two years


Public information shows that the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) is a national public welfare public fundraising foundation approved by the State Council and registered with the China Association for Science and Technology and the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and since the implementation of the Charity Law on September 1, 2016, it is one of the first 16 charitable organizations in the country to qualify for public offerings.


Ma Yong told the reporter that the CBCGDF Policy and Research Department was concerned about the destruction of the Yangguan Forestry Shelter Forest in 2018, was because of the reflection of local volunteers. The CBCGDF found that the situation was true after field investigations. The protective public welfare forests, which had been worked hard and sacrificed by generations of Dunhuang people, were felled on a large scale, and the “vacant” forest land was used to grow grapes that consume a lot of water.


The irony is that today's large-scale logging is precisely because of the governance results obtained in the past few decades.


"Grapes are buried in the soil in autumn and winter and unearthed in spring. The planting water is huge, and the soil has to be turned over frequently. This will inevitably cause loose sand on the surface and form mobile sand. Therefore, planting grapes will not only prevent sand and fix sand, but will increase the risk of desertification. " Yu Shunli, a researcher at the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, visited the site. He analyzed that the reason why the relevant organizations chose to plant grapes in the shelterbelt area of the Yangguan Forest Site was because after decades of hard work, the soil has a strong water retention capacity and better planting conditions than other places.


In order to prevent the deforestation of Yangguan Forest Site and protect the local ecological environment, on March 29, 2019, the CBCGDF filed an environmental civil public interest litigation against the state-owned Dunhuang Yangguan Forest Site.


"During the litigation, we obtained new evidence and discovered that the logging certificate of the forest site was issued to Dunhuang Wine Industry Co., Ltd., the wine company also caused infringement and damage to the shelter forest and the local vegetation environment, so it was added as the second defendant. "Ma Yong said.


The Gansu Mining District People's Court, which accepted this case, only arranged for a hearing on December 16, 2020, one and a half years later. The reporter browsed the video of the court trial and found that the CBCGDF filed 8 lawsuits against the two defendants, including "immediately stopping the logging of protection forests and other damage to forests, compensation for damage to the ecological environment, setting up permanent warning signs, and apologizing to the national media." request. However, during the trial, Yangguan Forest Site stated that it had fulfilled its statutory management duties and submitted its ecological assessment report. The overall quality of the ecological environment of the forest site is improving, especially in terms of improving wind and sand fixation and soil and water conservation. The wine company said that it has obtained legal procedures and there is no act of logging and destroying the protection forest.


But the most puzzling thing is that on December 25, 2020, the Gansu Mining District Court declared "The prosecution materials submitted by CBCGDF cannot prove that CBCGDF has specialized in environmental protection public welfare activities for more than five consecutive years and has no criminal record. It did not meet the requirements of the "Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China" for social organizations to initiate environmental civil public interest litigation," as the reason, it was determined that the litigation initiated by the CBDGDF did not have the statutory qualifications of the plaintiff, and the litigation was rejected.


"As early as 2017, the public interest litigation for environmental pollution in the Tengger Desert filed by CBCGDF was listed as Guiding Case No. 75 by the Supreme People's Court. This is the first time that an environmental public interest litigation has become a guiding case. It also clarified that the CBCGDF is qualified to initiate environmental civil public interest litigation. " A prosecutor who has handled public interest litigation for a long time told the reporter.


It is reported that the CBCGDF has appealed the case to the Higher People's Court of Gansu Province, but there is no news yet.


The wine industry with high hopes


CBCGDF's prosecution brought Dunhuang Wine Industry Co., Ltd. the "grower" behind to the front.


According to the official website, Dunhuang Wine Industry Company is located in Yangguan Forest Site in Dunhuang City. The factory was established in 1985 with an initial scale of 100 tons/year. After the transformation of the enterprise system in 1998, after a series of technological transformation and scale expansion, it has a wine grape base of 2000 mu. The main products include "Mogao Grotto Pinot Noir Dry Red Wine" and "Mogao Grotto Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Red Wine", etc., a series of "Mogao Grotto" brand wines.


The data shows that the registered capital of Dunhuang Wine Industry Company is 8 million yuan, and its business scope is wine brewing, wholesale, sales and catering services. The company’s shareholders include Zhong Xuejun and Dunhuang Gucheng Tourism Film and Television Co., Ltd. The legal representative is Zhong Xuejun, whose industries involve tourism, culture, agriculture and other fields, including Subei County Wanlong Animal Agriculture Technology Co., Ltd., Dunhuang Gucheng Tourism Film and Television Co., Ltd., Dunhuang Desert Forest Park Co., Ltd., Dunhuang Desert Ecological Park, etc. The reporter noticed that there is very little public information about Zhong Xuejun on the Internet, and the main reason is his investment experience in Hainan as a Dunhuang businessman.


Wine is the new "business card" of Gansu's ecological industry. Previously, Gansu had proposed that it would strive to achieve the goal of exceeding 10 billion yuan in total sales of alcohol production enterprises in the province by the end of the "14th Five-Year Plan" period.


According to data from the Gansu Wine Industry Association, in the past 10 years, the area of wine grapes grown in Gansu Province has exceeded 300,000 mu, an increase of 132.8%, ranking fourth in the country. The number of wine production enterprises increased from 7 to 19, and sales and taxes increased by 77.6% and 102.9% respectively. Market sales outside the province increased from 17% in the past to 40%. In 2018, Mogao's market share outside the province exceeded that of the province for the first time.


“It’s not a bad thing that local development has momentum, but the deforestation incident at Yangguan Forest Site exposed the short-sighted behavior of sacrificing the ecological environment in exchange for temporary economic development.” Ma Yong called on the Central Ecological and Environmental Protection Inspectors to carry out continuous special inspections in the northwest region. On the one hand, they find problems and urge them to solve them. On the other hand, inspecting local decision-making that contradicts ecological civilization completely changes the concept of development and comprehensively guards the ecological barrier of the northwest.

Original Chinese article:

By / Liang Hui Modified / Maggie