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China Launched Battle Against Lake Pollution

An International Workshop on the Restoration and Management of Polluted Lakes opened here
Monday, marking the country's determined efforts to combat threats to its major lakes.

   The seminar has attracted over 100 experts from at home and abroad, including ones from the United States, Denmark, India, Austria, Germany, Mongolia and Argentina, and experts from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

   Over the past 20 years, China's fast-growing economy has generated a huge amount of waste water, which has been discharged into rivers and lakes as people used to know little about its harm to lakes and their fragile ecological systems.

   In addition, deforestation in lake-source regions and farmland reclamation around lakes has also contributed to environmental deterioration in lakes and their surroundings.

   Proud to be one of five lake-rich regions in the country, southwest China's Yunnan Province alone has nine lakes with areas of over 30 square kilometers, and the gross product generated in the valleys of nine lakes accounts for 30 percent of the province's total.

   In the 1980s the province began to carry out a series of projects to protect and revive polluted lakes.

   The famous Dianchi Lake, on a high plateau which covers 307 square kilometers, plays a key role in balancing the environment of this capital of Yunnan. It is the source of drinking water for local residents and one of the best known tourism spots in the country. 

   However, the lake's water has become murky because of the industrial and domestic waste discharged into it over the past 20 years, and fast-increasing algae, whose growth is encouraged by the chemicals and warm water from sewage and factories, is also clogging it up.

   The province will put the Dianchi Lake problem to lake experts for discussion at the seminar.

   In 1997 the Chinese government listed Dianchi Lake as a key part of a state project to protect the "three rivers and three lakes" (Liaohe, Huaihe and Haihe rivers, and Taihu, Chaohu and Dianchi lakes).

   The government has earmarked billions of yuan to protect the lake's environment from deteriorating, and has achieved some good results. But environmental experts say completely ending the pollution will require constant efforts over a long period of time.

   Meanwhile, loans from the World Bank will be used to build a sewage treatment plant in Kunming, whose industrial and household waste water is a major source of the lake's pollution.

   Nationwide, local governments, supported by the Central Government and in some cases in cooperation with international environmental organizations, have launched a wide variety of programs to tackle the problem.

   Hubei Province in central China, which has the largest number of rivers and lakes of any province in the country, has declared a crackdown on water pollution.

   Famed as the "province of a thousand lakes," Hubei boasts abundant fish and rice production, but is also a heavy industrial base. The provincial government has pooled 6.4 billion yuan in a resolute effort to treat water pollution in its major water resources.

   The program consists of 76 sewage treatment projects. When fully completed, the program is expected to reduce by 400,000 tons a day the sewage which is discharged into Hubei's waters. 

   Anhui Province in east China has decided to invest 2 billion yuan (about 241 million U.S. dollars) in the coming five years to treat pollution in its Chaohu Lake, one of the five major fresh-water lakes in the country, which has also been listed in the "three rivers and three lakes" project.

   The first-stage treatment has paid off. So far, 108 key polluting enterprises have reached waste discharge standards, reducing the waste flowing into the lake by one quarter.

   But a recent survey showed that the lake still contains too much nitrogen and phosphorus.

   Jiangsu Province, also in east China, plans to invest 14.6 billion yuan (about 1.76 billion U.S. dollars) in the coming five years to clean up Taihu Lake, also one of the five major fresh-water lakes.

   Officials with the Jiangsu Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau said the province will build 65 wastewater treatment plants with a combined capacity of handling 1.66 million tons of wastewater per day in cities and towns adjacent to the lake.

   Excessive amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen in the lake have been blamed for a rampant outbreak of algae in the lake, which threatens marine life and could turn the lake into a foul-smelling body of dead water.

   Major polluting industrial firms surrounding the lake, such as chemical plants, feather processing plants, pharmaceutical firms and dyeing plants, will be ordered to restructure their production by 2002 so as to reduce pollutant discharge. And 62 plants discharging huge amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen will be ordered to reduce their total discharge by a set date.      


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