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Dark sky preservation endeavor stepped up in coastal city

Updated: Jun 6, 2023 By ZHOU MO in Shenzhen, Guangdong CHINA DAILY Print
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Stars glitter in the sky above Xichong Community in Dapeng New Area, Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Xichong has been certified as an International Dark Sky community. ZHANG YIPENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Series of initiatives introduced to reduce light pollution

Xu Guorong, 65, has lived all his life in an area of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, known for its long coastline, beautiful beaches and rolling mountains, which attract travelers from many countries.

A resident of the Xichong Community in the city's Dapeng New Area, Xu likes to lie on the beach when night falls and look up at the stars while listening to waves crashing along the beach.

"It feels as though the entire Milky Way is right in front of your eyes," he said.

Xu, who runs a seafood restaurant in the community, earning up to 300,000 yuan ($42,130) a year, said, "Local villagers such as myself live on the natural resources of the sea, and thanks to the development of tourism, we have been able to escape poverty and lead better lives."

He became more optimistic about the future in April, when the community was certified by the International Dark Sky Association, or IDA, as an International Dark Sky Community, or IDSC — the first of its kind in China and only the second in Asia after that in Bisei Town, an administrative district of Ibara, Japan.

The association said an IDSC refers to a town, city, municipality or other legally recognized community that has shown exceptional dedication to preserving the night sky by implementing and enforcing quality outdoor lighting, dark sky education and public support for such skies.

"For a long time, people came to my community for the sea. Now, they have more reasons to visit, including watching the stars. This international certification means the area will be known to a wider audience overseas, and this will attract more tourists and benefit the local economy," Xu said.

Covering an area of about 10.9 square kilometers, Xichong Community is about 60 km from downtown Shenzhen.

It boasts mountains on three sides, with the other side facing the sea. The area is home to eight natural villages, Xichong Beach — the city's largest — and Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory. Some 1.6 million tourists visit the community each year.

Last year, Dapeng New Area welcomed 14.07 million tourists, year-on-year growth of 0.9 percent, official data show. Tourism revenue rose by about 7 percent year-on-year to 7.09 billion yuan.

Attending the certification ceremony in Xichong in April, Ruskin Hartley, CEO and executive director of the IDA, said, "Over the past two years, the Xichong pilot project has built a dark sky community model for other cities across China and around the world."

He said the community differentiates itself from others, as it has a good mix of astronomical and ecological features.

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