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SourceShiyanNewsNetwork    Updated2021-01-19 20:24:33



  Zhu  Jinbao, a forest ranger, steps on a snow-covered mountain road leading up to the highest forest observation station in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Jan. 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Rui)


  Zhu Jinbao cooks lunch in the forest observation station in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Jan. 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Yating)

  Carrying a black bag weighing over 20 kg, 49-year-old Zhu Jinbao stepped firmly on a snow-covered mountain road leading up to the highest forest observation station in north China's Tianjin Municipality.

  Zhu has been working in the Baxian Mountains, which  cover an area of over 1,000 hectares, since 1990. His duties include preventing forest fires and recording wild animals and rare plants.

  "I have left footprints almost everywhere in these mountains," Zhu said. There used to be no roads in the mountains, and it was Zhu who marked the way, step by step.

  On the eve of Chinese Lunar New Year, a traditional festival for family reunions, Zhu came back to the 20-square-meter observation station alone, just like in previous years.

  He had to climb about 2,500 stone stairs on the way. About halfway up, sweat streamed down his face and dripped to the ground. He unbuttoned his outer coat and wiped his forehead with his gloves.

  "Every time I climb with a heavy bag, I get drenched. Especially in summer, I get soaked in a few minutes," Zhu said.


  Zhu Jinbao takes a break on the way to the highest forest observation station in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Jan. 7, 2020. (Xinhua/Song Rui)

  When he arrived at the observation station, he took out from his bag a cabbage, some cucumbers, peanuts, coriander, some seasonings, a piece of pork and dozens of medicinal decoction packets for treating the rheumatic arthritis in his legs.

  "The food needs to be carried manually. The pork is specially prepared for making New Year's Eve dumplings. Dumplings are a luxury here," Zhu said.

  Even so, the living conditions in the station have seen a big improvement over the years. Electricity came through in 2003. Tap water and air conditioning were realized in 2010.

  "I used to carry 25 kg of water a week, and had to use it wisely. The water used for washing my face in the morning had to be saved to wash my feet before going to bed at night," Zhu said.

  Life became more difficult on rainy days. His room became so humid that the quilt was wet through. Once lightning struck the station and left a large hole in the wall -- wide enough for a man to squeeze through.

  "The TV set was flung to the ground by the fireball, and the telephone line was cut to pieces. My hair stood on end due to the static electricity," he recalled.

  Loneliness is another challenge. Zhu has to walk around the room in order to find a signal and carefully place his cellphone there. Nonetheless, he still misses calls. His wife and son never expect to reach him with just one  call.

  But Zhu still enjoys his work, as he is proud of what he is doing, and the magnificent view from the station. "The views change every day, and I can enjoy them all."

  According to Zhu, spring is usually a high-risk season because of strong winds and more farmwork. He walks more than 20 km a day to spot fire hazards.

  "On the last National Day holiday, I climbed the 2,500 stairs eight times in one day."

  In 1995, Baxian Mountains were listed as a state-level nature reserve. In 2008, the hilly and mountainous area of northern Tianjin's Jizhou District where the Baxian Mountains are was included in the ecological protection zone, which means this area will receive better protection and more support from the government.

  "In the past, villagers made a living by quarrying or mining. Snow was black because of the dust," Zhu said. As the ecology improved, the snow became white again and the air quality improved as well.

  Many more species of wild animals and plants were spotted. According to the local government, there were more than 1,000 species of plants and 429 species of wild animals in the Baxian Mountains National Nature Reserve.

  "My efforts have paid off," Zhu said.

  China's forest coverage rate has increased from 12.7 percent in the early 1970s to 22.96 percent in 2018, and the forest area has reached 220 million hectares. China ranks first in the growing of forest resources worldwide, according to statistics released by China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

  For Zhu, the observation station is his second home. He treats the mountains as his friends and trees as his neighbors.

  "China attaches great importance to environmental protection. I'm willing to safeguard the mountains and be a forest ranger for the rest of my life," Zhu said, leaning on the railings and gazing out at the mountains and trees.


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