The Chinese government has been controlling herding, downsizing industrial production, and remodeling towns in an effort to protect the source of the Yangtze River on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Billions of dollars have been rolled out to reverse the once deteriorating environment in the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in northwest China's Qinghai Province.
Kunga Namje, who was a herdsman for five decades, moved out of a grassland in the nature reserve 11 years ago to live in a suburb of Golmud. Another 406 herdsmen moved with Namje. In return, they received20,000 yuan (3,200 U.S. dollars) from the government every year.
"We moved out on our own will. We just want to protect the environment and the plateau," Namje said.
Tangula Mountain Town, with an altitude of 4,500 meters, is located inside the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve.
To conserve the environment and the source water of the Yangtze River, the township government has been issuing quotas for herding based on each year's growth of the grasslands. Many mines were also shut down.
The town itself is also undergoing an infrastructure facelift, said Tang Haiping, deputy head of the Tangula town government.
Local people have also volunteered to help protect the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve.
Tsring, a local Tibetan man, joined an environmental group after witnessing the growing amount of trash that came along with the population increase.
Since 2012, he has been campaigning to raise local residents' environmental awareness.
"Local Tibetan people are glad to protect the source of the Yangtze River," Tsring said.
A large number of bar-headed gooses come to breed in the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve every April. In the past, people would take their eggs for food and that prompted the environmental volunteers like Tsring to act.
Tsring said he and fellow group members would camp during the two-month breeding season and prevent people from taking away the birds' eggs.
The number of bar-headed gooses that came to breed nearly tripled in the last three years, Tsring added.
As environmental protection efforts continue, residents in the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve are in closer contact with wild animals.
A town official said he received reports from herdsmen that a bear rushed into their home and took away all their food.
According to an official report on Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve protection, in the last decade, the area of wetlands in Sanjiangyuan increased 279.9 square kilometers and the area of grasslands grew 123.7 square kilometers.
In January 2014, 16 billion yuan was allocated for further protection of the nature reserve.