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A Decade of Change: Tackling pollution in Lake Taihu

11-01-2012 14:05 BJT Special Report:China: A Decade of Change |

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By CCTV reporter Wang Yizhi

Environmental issues in China are a delicate balancing act, as the country struggles to maintain its economic momentum and tackle pollution at the same time. Surrounded by crowded cities like Suzhou, Wuxi and Changzhou, Lake Taihu supports enterprises that account for over one tenth of the county’s GDP.

By 2007 and after decades of ignorance of environmental protection, the lake was almost destroyed. But in 5 short years, fish and clear water have returned to the lake.

A good day for a good harvest.

Fishing on Lake Taihu for over 4 decades, her morning usually begins with taking the nets in. A net of silver fish complete a menu, and earn her a living. Just a few ago, these fish did not exist here, a sign of the water quality’s improvement.

A fisherman of Lake Taihu said, "There used to be few fish. The water is getting better year by year."

Lake Taihu is the second largest freshwater lake in China with a size of 2,250 square km. Surrounded by GDP contributor cities in Jiangsu Province, its cleanliness hasn’t come easy.

Vessels like this equipped with huge pumps have been operating day and night on the water for years. They pump off the surface sediment. This process has sped up the purification process exponentially. Without it, pollutants released from the sediment could have extended the purifying process to half a century.

The mud is delivered to factories like this, where it is dried out. With its mostly organic properties and a lack of chemical pollutants, it’s taken away as construction material.

The main pollutants in the Lake are phosphorus and nitrogen. As a result, Blue Algae is rampant. In 2007 when Algae was wreaking havoc in the lake, Wu Yuexin quit his job as a truck driver and joined the force of 2,000 to combat the crisis.

Five years on, he’s a veteran in efforts to collect the Algae.

Wu Yuexin, a salvage worker, said, "Southeast winds blow the Algae to this area. Then we dredge or pump off the Algae. But there’s not much to pump nowadays. Back in 2007, the Algae was as thick as a lawn."

In this factory, Algae is dried out. 9 factories around the lake have processed 4 million tons of Algae in the past five years. The Algae is rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. Most of the processed material is mixed with animal waste to produce organic fertilizer. A product welcomed by local farmers.

Billions of yuan are spent annually to purify Lake Thai. 90% of local sewage water is processed before discharged into the lake. In addition, a project was also built to divert water from the Yangzte River into Lake Taihu.

Lui Zhenlin, director general of Jiangsu Provincial Dept of Water Resources, said, "Controlling sewage, diverting water, removing sediment and salvaging Algae; these are the main efforts that make up a comprehensive approach to a new, cleaner Lake Thai. The efforts have also been mimicked in other lakes, producing similar effects."

This lake used to be on the list of three rivers and three lakes, which are the most polluted waters in China. Now it can continue to feed the 45 million people living around it.

In the past decade, the central goverment has spent over one hundred billion Yuan in tackling pollution in these three rivers and three lakes. Some of the problems still exist. But the methods used here can be a good example for future sollutions, and possibly a hope of forming a green momentum in China’s economic development.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: CCTV.com

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