Beidaihe's rich history dates back to the Qin Dynasty, when the emperor sought immortality along its scenic coastline. Today, Beidaihe's coastal setting attracts urbanites seeking an escape to the sea. Referred to as Beijing's oceanfront because of its location on the Boahai Bay and its proximity to the capital, the district's emphasis on strategic tourism development balanced with ecological conservation is critical to its long-term economic, social, and environmental sustainability. As one of multiple projects in Qinhuangdao, Sasaki worked closely with the local, provincial, and central government officials to create a plan for an oceanfront expansion district comprising nearly 476 square kilometers. The Beidaihe New District will become a model for environmental stewardship that will distinguish it from other coastal destinations throughout China.
Beidaihe's diverse maritime ecosystems support unique native flora and fauna throughout the region's forests, rivers, wetlands, and sand dunes. These ecosystems, combined with relatively low levels of human disturbance, have created large areas of open space rich with biodiversity. More than 265 species of migratory birds pass through Beidaihe on their bi-annual migrations, foraging in the area's river deltas and salt marsh habitats. The past 30 years, however, have brought great degradation to the natural resources of Beidaihe. Wetlands have been lost to aquaculture and other agricultural uses, rivers have become channelized drainage canals, and the Bohai Bay has experienced a significant degradation of water quality and depletion of its fisheries.
During the process, it became clear that the plan needed to not only protect the existing fragile ecology of the district, but also restore what was lost to ensure the area's future success. Enhancing the region's ecology became the core of the plan, and policies were established to ensure the long-term protection of the region's natural assets. These included minimizing human impact on sensitive coastal ecosystems, establishing wildlife corridors that link different habitats together, and restoring regional water resources such as the Qilihai Lagoon and Luan River Delta. Also, re-establishing riparian corridors along the district's rivers, lakes, and ponds, provides habitat continuity for wildlife movement from inland areas to the ocean, minimizes erosion and reduce sediment loads, and helps to remove excess nutrients and chemical pollutants resulting from adjacent agricultural uses.
To finance these restoration efforts while also preventing unmitigated growth and urban sprawl, the master plan establishes clear development boundaries and a land use policy that is complimentary to the region's environmental context. Three sub-districts are located based on their proximity to existing infrastructure and distance from ecologically sensitive areas. The Nandaihe District provides an emphasis on culture and the arts as the key economic driver for tourism and to extend the seasonality of the region; a university for the study of oceanography and environmental sciences is the catalyst for development of the Gold Coast District; and the Qilihai District provides nature-based educational and recreational experiences for visitors. This careful integration of development within the region's unique environmental context establishes a destination that will endure for generations.