Literary landmark wetland benefiting from green development

(Xinhua) 14:57, July 19, 2023

SHIJIAZHUANG, July 19 (Xinhua) -- A flock of quacking ducks observed in a big wetland in north China late last month has caught the attention of the media.

Aythya baeri is the scientific name for the blue-headed species. It is categorized as severely endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and enjoys first-rate national protection in China.

They made their debut in July last year, attracting crowds of interested observers to Baiyangdian, northern China's largest freshwater wetland, where the prized animals have now become regulars.

The discovery of these uncommon ducks excites Hou Jianhua, a professor at Hebei University's School of Life Sciences, who says it is the latest beneficiary of the rising emphasis on the environment.

Baiyangdian Lake is located in the Xiong'an New Area in Hebei. Xiong'an, dubbed a "future city," prioritizes environmental protection, and the improved wetland is a typical depiction of China's efforts to pursue high-quality growth.

In contemporary Chinese literature, the lake is a significant landmark. Sun Li, a Chinese novelist, published "Lotus Lake -- Memories of Baiyangdian" in the 1940s. It is a story about the Communist-led resistance of northern Chinese peasants battling Japanese invaders.

A section of the book, a middle-school required reading item, was set in Baiyangdian's wetlands rather than the plains and farmlands. Reed beds, towering lotus fields, and an abundant harvest from the lake distinguished the Baiyangdian setting from other revolutionary battlefields.

However, Baiyangdian was severely impacted by industrial pollution between the 1960s and the 1980s, when sewage carrying chemicals poisoned water and lake beds, killing a great number of aquatic animals. Due to climate change in the 1990s, the lake nearly dried up. Bird populations plummeted after that, due to habitat degradation and human meddling.

Since the Xiong'an New Area was established in 2017, the lake's rehabilitation and protection activities have been bolstered.

Local governments strengthened their control over industrial and agricultural pollution sources by shutting down polluting firms. They also undertook efforts to replenish water supplies, allowing millions of hectares of agriculture to revert to wetlands.

Such efforts have paid off. The first sign of progress was in water quality, which has improved from Grade V to Grade III in the country's five-tier quality system.

More wild creatures are returning to Baiyangdian as the water quality improves. The number of bird species in the lake area has risen to around 254. It has steadily evolved into a haven for stunning lotus, blooming reeds, and a plethora of fish species.

Locals changed their attitudes as well. They understand now more than ever that conserving the lake can have both economic and environmental benefits. Locals are working to develop tourism.

"When the water quality was poor, almost no one came to the lake, and there was only one small restaurant in the village, with little profit," Zhao Wenxiang, a local village administrator, explained. "There are now over 10 restaurants and guest houses here to cater to birdwatchers and tourists."

Tech support is driving the environmental progress. The local bureau staff began deploying unmanned ship patrols with real-time video feedback. The 5G network's high speed and low latency, combined with virtual reality equipment, enable workers to conduct visual inspections of the lake surface and obtain real-time data.

According to the local authorities, Baiyangdian Lake is expanding and will eventually occupy an area of 360 square km.

Liu Xun, who snapped photos of the rare diving ducks in late June, said he is pleased to see the lake grow because it will attract more ducks. "I'm looking forward to reuniting with old friends."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


Related Stories