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Former fisherman volunteers to collect waste oil on Dongting Lake

12-15-2010 14:39 BJT

53 year-old Zhang Jianshe lives in Lujiao Town, Yueyang County of Hunan Province. Zhang had worked as a fisherman on Dongting Lake for 14 years when he started cleaning Dongting Lake in 2003.

Zhang only earned over 20,000 yuan by catching fish in 2003, his lowest annual income in more than 10 years. He found that the problem lied in a thin layer of oil on the lake surface. He often saw oil slicks floating on Dongting Lake, and his fishing nets were also covered with a thin oil layer, so the number of fish he caught naturally decreased.

The oil layer is caused by moving ships releasing oil. Zhang learned that a 50-ton boat can discharge nearly 50 kilograms of used oil into the lake from its engine cabin every year.

“There must be someone to take care of this,” Zhang said. After learning that some people are good at collecting and recycling used engine oil at the Nanjing section of the Yangtze River, he went to Nanjing at his own expenses and spent more than one month learning the recycling techniques. Upon returning home, he submitted a report on recycling used engine oil on Dongting Lake to the Yueyang County Government and the county's environmental authorities. After the local government approved his plan, he managed to get a 50,000-yuan bank loan and spent the money buying a motorboat as well as the related equipment. After converting it into a workboat that can be used to not only catch fish but also recycle used engine oil, he started his volunteer job as a lake cleaner.

However, it was not so easy to be a lake cleaner. The best way to clean oil from a lake is to go directly on board and recycle used engine oil with the consent of boat owners, but many owners were not cooperative because they thought Zhang wanted to make a profit in the disguise of environmental protection. Zhang had to earnestly, kindly, and patiently talk it over with these owners, and sometimes needed to give the owners small gifts such as rice, fresh fish, and soap powder; otherwise they would not let him board their boats.

One day in June 2004, Zhang found a fleet of dredgers continuously discharging used oil into Dongting Lake, so he told the captain that he wanted to clean up the oil, but the captain simply ignored him. On the second day, Zhang went to talk with the captain again, but was bitten by a dog on the dredger. He did not give up and came again on the third day. The captain was moved and finally ushered him on board. Zhang collected a total of over five tons of used oil from the dredgers.

As the water level of Dongting Lake has been exceptionally low during the dry season in these years, local fishermen often fished out bombs left by the Japanese invaders during the war time. Zhang decided find time to clean out the bombs while recycling used oil. He started by using magnets to get the bombs in May 2005. The bombs are rusty and can explode at any time. Zhang has collected over 60 bombs in the past few years at the risk of his own life and handed them all to the local public security agency.

According to available statistics, Zhang has so far collected over 800 tons of used oil from Dongting Lake, which averages one ton every three days. In addition, he collected over 30 tons of waste metal from the lake and assisted the Eastern Dongting Lake Environment Management Office in moving two pots of concentrated sulfuric acid out of the water.

As Zhang has been collecting more and more used oil, his job as a fisherman has been severely affected. His wife Peng Huihui said, “We had saved more than 100,000 yuan through catching fish, but now it is all gone, and we owe a 30,000-yuan debt.”

Zhang’s cleaning work has received great encouragement and support from local authorities. The Yueyang Environmental Protection Bureau had four eye-catching Chinese characters “Zhong Guo Huan Bao” (meaning “environmental protection in China”) printed on Zhang’s boat, and issued him the first oil recycling license in Hunan Province “Waste Dangerous Goods Business License No.1.” Zhang was listed among the top 10 green guards in China on June 5, 2007, and was elected as a provincial-level model worker. Zhang said, “Protecting Dongting Lake, our mother lake, will be good for countless people, so I will stick to it no matter how hard it gets.”

Editor:Shi Taoyang |Source: CNTV

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