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Heixiazi Island: Russia-China Ecotourism Initiative

Heixiazi Island is located at the confluence of the Ussuri and Amur Rivers, which form a natural border between Russia and China. The ongoing issue of rightful ownership of this strip of sedimentary land has finally been resolved, in a move that will benefit both Russia and China, as well as the resident wildlife and environmentally conscious tourists. The decision has been taken to divide the island from north to south, share it between the two countries and turn it into an eco-tourism destination. In November 2010, authorities from both countries issued a joint statement in which they pledged to cooperate in developing Heixiazi Island, with the ultimate goal of creating an eco-tourism destination where citizens of both Russia and China can visit without visas.

On 20 June 2011 the first 150 Chinese citizens visited Heixiazi Island, making history as the first group to enjoy the results of this history-making agreement. Getting to the island was in itself an adventure as the visitors took four days to make the journey from the city of Harbin, and each of the visitors interviewed agreed that the long journey was well worth it. After crossing the floating bridge from China’s mainland to the island, the group became the first tourists to explore the new eco-tourism zone, which is home to 44 species of endangered animals and birds, as well as seven species of endangered plants, along with countless other flora and fauna.

At present there are two tours for visitors to choose from, with features of the tours including a visit to a former military camp in Russia. Most of the island will be preserved as wetlands with boardwalks and bridges providing easy access to the natural elements of the island. The remainder will be developed with facilities to cater for visiting eco-tourists.

Khabarovsk is Russia's closest mainland city to Heixiazi Island, and with the Trans-Siberian railway connecting the city to both Vladivostok and Moscow, it is anticipated that Russian tourists will take advantage of the opportunity to visit this unique island development. As a major city, and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Khabarovsk is well equipped to handle an influx of tourists. There has been some criticism from both sides with regard to the development of Heixiazi Island, and especially with regard to the agreement between Russia and China, but officials are hopeful that once the economic benefits start to trickle through, the positive effects will outweigh any negativity.

 



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