Polluted lake returning to life after years of clean-up

13:37, July 16, 2011      

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Lihu Lake in Wuxi City, a renowned tourist destination in eastern Jiangsu Province, used to make headlines with its frequent algae blooms and other significant pollution, but now, as years have passed since the local government decided to clean up the area, the lake is beginning to take on a new look.

"The environment has improved a lot. The area used to stink and no one wanted to get close to it, but now I can ride along the lake and enjoy the beautiful scenery," said a city resident surnamed Hu, who asked for anonymity, at a newly opened Jinchengwan park along the lake.

The opening of the park marks the end of the ten-year project designed to bring life back to the Lihu Lake, according to the city government.

Lihu Lake is part of the Taihu Lake, the second largest freshwater lake in China. It was once an attractive spot in the city, but had suffered from hasty and irrational development when the region's economy took off in the 1990s.

During its worst times, the water body of the lake had shrunk to 6.4 square kilometers from the original 9.5 square kilometers. With algae accumulating and waste dumped in the lake, the area has become the worst polluted part of the Taihu Lake.

To repair the damage, the city government vowed to seriously deal with the problem to bring life back to the lake in 2001. Drawing on the experiences of freshwater management from both at home and abroad, the government gradually embarked on the long journey.

During the ten-year period, a range of large-scale projects were launched, which include desilting, pollutant interception, water transferring and ecological restoration. To block off waste water, the city set up gates at the 31 channels to the lake at the first stage of treatment.

The move proved to be quite successful. At the International Conference on Freshwater held at Wuxi earlier this year, Erik Jeppesen, a researcher with Denmark's National Environment Research Institute showed his appreciation for the effort.

Only when the pollutants from the outside are detered can the ecological restoration becomes possible, he said.

Apart from preventing pollutants, the government has been trying to spruce up the area as a better environment that would push up the value of the land. Higher prices of the land will in turn help finance the budget for further ecological restoration.

According to the local government, land prices in the area have been climbing steadily from the original 200,000 yuan (30,940 U.S.dollars) per mu (1 hectare equals to 15 mu) to the current 8 million yuan per mu. Now the environment has been regarded as important social capital for the city.

"We will try to strike a balance between environment management and economic benefits. Ecological factors now come top our consideration," said Mao Xiaoping, party chief of Wuxi.

With all these efforts, the lake has undergone significant changes. According to the official figures, the lake's water now has expanded to 9.1 square kilometers and water quality has greatly improved. Visibility depth of the water reaches 80 cm in contrast to the original 20 cm.

Meanwhile, a series of scenic spots are scattered around the lake.

"Now we have more choices if we want to relax, so I hope the entire community can help to further improve the environment," Hu said.

Source: Xinhua
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