WASHINGTON DC, February 24, 2017 - The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved a US$100 million loan today to conserve cultural and natural heritage, enhance tourism services and improve community services in China's Gansu province. It is the second project of its kind in Gansu.

Much of the ancient Silk Road runs through Gansu, including some of China's most significant cultural and natural heritage sites with World Heritage status, such as Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, and Great Wall Fortress in Jiayuguan and Maijishan Grottoes in Tianshui. Gansu is also one of the least developed and poorest provinces in China. Tourism based on cultural and natural heritage sites, which makes up more than 10 percent of Gansu's gross domestic product, is considered a priority for local economic development and poverty reduction.

"The new project will continue our support to Gansu's effort to improve the management of its invaluable heritage assets and further develop a sustainable tourism sector. The selected project sites are all located in poor counties. Project interventions and investment in tourism will create more jobs and opportunities for local communities, increase their incomes and help them escape poverty," said You Ji, World Bank's Operations Officer and Project's Team Leader.

While the first Gansu Cultural and Natural Heritage Project (2008-2015) focused on the Hexi Corridor and Central and Eastern Gansu, the Second Gansu Cultural and Natural Heritage Protection and Development Project will focus on Longdongnan region, or Southeast Gansu. The region has 50 percent of Gansu's immovable cultural relics and 22 percent of Gansu's natural heritage, as well as more than half of Gansu's rural poor.

The project will support conservation programs and the development of basic infrastructure and service facilities at six heritage sites. These include the Kongtong Mountain scenic area, Jinchuan Hundred Mile Grottoes Corridor, Yunya Temple scenic area, Guan'egou scenic area, Yangba scenic area, and Songmingyan scenic area and Hezheng Ancient Fossil Museum. For local communities close to the project sites, the project will provide basic infrastructure services and skills training on how to start or run tourism-related small businesses, and support the protection of intangible cultural heritage.

The project will cost $160.76 million, of which the government will provide $60.67 million. It is scheduled for completion in 2022.

Since 2005, the World Bank has supported numerous dedicated cultural heritage projects in China, including in Guizhou, Shandong, and Hubei provinces.

Source: World Bank