Lake that cleans up on tourists

Updated: 2013-03-22 07:04

By Xu Taotao (China Daily)

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'Taihu Lake is beautiful, and the most attractive part is its water." That lyric from an East China folk song inspired Wan Yaoyao to travel hundreds of kilometers to visit the lake and admire its beauty.

When two of us from China Daily arrived in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, to gain firsthand experience of the pollution-control efforts in and around one of China's biggest freshwater lakes, Wan, a native of nearby Anhui province, was leaning against a railing overlooking the lake, marveling at the wide expanse of water.

Just like Wan, millions of tourists visit the city every year, lured by the lake. Many may not realize that the clean, peaceful lake they see before them was heavily polluted just a few years ago. Only after traveling 1,300 km in five days around the lake and its surrounding area did we understand the tough task facing the lakeside cities in their attempts to restore the ecological balance.

One of the key ways of reducing the level of pollutants was the diversion of water from the Yangtze River to dilute and eventually flush out the excessive number of nutrients that had turned the waters murky and encouraged frequent outbreaks of oxygen-absorbing algae.

The project, carried out by the Taihu Basin Authority under the Ministry of Water Resources, allowed clean Yangtze water to enter the lake via the Wangyu River, accelerating the water flow and improving its quality.

In addition to these short-term measures, a wider battle against pollution has been ongoing in the cities of Wuxi, to the north of the lake, and Huzhou, to its south.

In 2007, a massive outbreak of blue-green algae in Wuxi resulted in the suspension of tap water supplies to millions of residents. Since then, the city authorities have embarked on a lengthy pollution-control program.

Improving the water environment in this heavily populated, developed region has been tough work, according to Wang Hongyong, director of the Wuxi Water Conservancy Bureau.

In Huzhou, a well-protected riverside park, wetland and a reservoir are embodiments of the goal of building an ecological and environmentally friendly city.

The last stop on our media trip was Anji county, a model of soil and water conservation that was formerly a major source of pollution in Taihu Lake. The water quality in Anji's Zhangwu township has improved so much that residents are happy to clean vegetables in the small waterways in front of their houses, the sight of which was one of the highlights of our trip.

There's an ancient Chinese saying, "With a combined effort, we can even move Taishan Mountain," which roughly means, "Together we are stronger." The city took those words to heart in its efforts to beat pollution.

Given the example of Anji, locals can expect to see further improvements in the lake water and, by extension, a furthering of the concept of a "beautiful China".

(China Daily 03/22/2013 page6)