Development threatens Peking man heritage site

------By CCTV Reporter Wang Conghui 07-16-2004 09:26

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian in suburban Beijing is one of the most important heritage sites in the world. But unlike many others threatened by over development of tourism, in Beijing it's industry that's the problem. Our reporter Wang Conghui went to Zhoukoudian to see what's being done to preserve this ancient and unique glimpse into mankind's beginnings.

Cement works, coalmines and quarries. All of them threaten this, the earliest known site of human habitation on the planet.

Peking Man is out of place in Zhoukoudian today, 600 thousand years after he lived right here.

Professor Mou Huichong is from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is concerned at the state of the site. He says industry in the area could destroy the caves, unless something is done soon.

Professor of Chinese Academy of Sciences Mou Huichong said, "Many places in the site are in danger of collapse. Any vibration from outside would trigger this. So, the coal mines, cement works and quarries are a real problem."

The local government has already closed several of the factories and quarries nearest to the site. But the constant demand for building materials means it's a punishing loss for the local economy.

Industrial development led to chance discovery of the heritage site. But now the local industry is threatening its existence. The Manager of the site has an ambitious plan, He is trying to have all these surrounding factories shut down and build a huge heritage park by 2008. And then these cement works and coal mines will be still, silent witnesses to history.

The biggest headache for site manager Yang Haifeng is this railway line. The tracks are just 100 meters from the site, and every day a dozen trains pass by. Experts worry that vibration from the trains is causing major damage to the caves.

Director of Zhoukoudian Peking Man Museum Yang Haifeng said, "The track is too close to the site. We still don't know how much damage is being done. Experts are still testing it. But once we have the data, I hope the local government will consider closing it down."

With so much at stake, new measures are now underway to protect the caves. Over 2 billion yuan has been allocated for reconstruction, with work set begin in July. Planning for a heritage park is also underway. Currently, the site only draw a few thousand tourists each year.

But once it's cleaned up, local authorities hope to replace these industries, and turn a visit to Peking Man into the only industry in the area.


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