Across China: Former dump pit turns into eco-park attracting millions of visitors

SHIJIAZHUANG, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Each morning, 48-year-old Wang Huiyi joins his fellow cyclists on a bike ride around a local lake, which was once a sinkhole filled with industrial wastewater.

South Lake in Tangshan, north China's Hebei Province, used to be a place that locals would avoid getting close to as it was swarmed with flies and mosquitos, and waste used to pile tens of meters high.

"Now it's been transformed," said Wang, head of a local bicycle association. "The environment has been improved, and now there is good air that's suitable for exercise."

Tangshan is an established Chinese industrial city and one of the country's major coal mining areas. It is home to the Kailuan coal mine, the country's first coal mine to use machinery, which was established in 1878.

Over a century of mining had left a sinkhole measuring over 30 square km, which sank even further in 1976 due to a massive earthquake. The hole was later filled with domestic and construction waste.

In 2008, the Tangshan city government launched a project to transform the area's environment by planting trees, building scenic roads and creating a lake.

The goal is to turn the former "industrial scar" into a "green lung" for the city, according to the city's plan.

A park with an 11.5 square km lake and 16 square km of green land was then built on the site of the former sinkhole.

"I witnessed how the lake was transformed from a deserted place into a beautiful park," said Shi Xuran, who began working near the lake in 2011.

The local government used the park as the location for the Tangshan International Horticultural Exposition in 2016.

"People were amazed by the contrast -- a sinkhole, and a venue for a horticultural exposition," said Shi.

In 2018, the South Lake area was made a public scenic site, and the city built facilities such as a theater, a library and a museum. In 2019, the park received over 6.4 million visitor arrivals.

The local government also converted an exhibition pavilion used during the horticultural show into a themed hall for shadow puppetry, a well-known local art, offering interactive puppet-maneuvering experiences for visitors.

"Today, it has become a must-visit place in Tangshan," said Shi.

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