Wharves removed; lake brain twitchgets new life

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Birds rest in Dongting Lake, Jan 3, 2015. [Photo/VCG]

Yueyang, a city along the Yangtze River in Hunan province, has been enhancing the environment of the river and its adjoining Dongting Lake by tearing down wharves and restoring the ecology.

At Tianxin Wharf, a large floating crane had its arm locked to a cement storage tank and slowly lifted it away.

"Removing the cement storage tank marks the completion of the demolition of the pier, and the natural landscape will be restored here for the public to appreciate," said Wang Wenhua, director of the management committee of the Chenglingji New Port District.

Tianxin Wharf was a sand and stone transfer base operated by a private company.

It used to be a busy place, with sand and stone piling up and dust in the air all year, causing harm to the surrounding ecology.

The city at the end of May launched a special campaign to close down unwanted wharves along the Hunan section of the Yangtze.

Forty-two wharves, including Tianxin, are to be closed, and 19 companies will partly or entirely end their port terminal operations.

"Companies should take responsibility and join efforts to protect the ecology," said Xiong Hui, head of Tianxin Group, which used to operate the wharf.

According to Xiong, his company is willing to cooperate despite the loss of benefits. His company has removed about 12,000 metric tons of cement tanks and two production lines since early June.

So far, the demolition of all the targeted berths and facilities has basically ended, and bank slope improvement and greening work have been carried out in an orderly way, according to Wang, the management director.

To minimize the impact of the project on the production of enterprises, his committee has offered temporary storage and production sites for the companies, and proposed ideas for sustainable development.

Measures are also being taken to protect Dongting Lake, the second-largest freshwater lake in China and the largest inland wetland in Asia. It is called "the kidney of the Yangtze River" because of its great role in purifying the environment, regulating the water level and maintaining ecological balance.

Over the past century, multiple factors have contributed to the shrinking water surface and ecological deterioration of the lake.

In 2016, Hunan launched a comprehensive treatment project to enhance the lake"s environment, including projects to minimize industrial pollution, sand dredging, illegal fishing and illegal occupancy of the lake"s wetlands.

In August 2017, Yueyang banned sand dredging in Dongting Lake.

Since 2016, a total of 43,000 kilometers of foul ditches have been dredged, and 24,000 pools have been reclaimed as lakes or wetlands, allowing the lake to form a new cycle of life.

According to the provincial government, the lake"s water quality should be suitable as a drinking water supply, as well as a wintering area and migration channel for fish by 2020.

The multiple measures have brought noticeable positive results, according to Yao Yi, deputy-director of the National East Dongting Lake Nature Reserve.

Yao said 98 species of birds spent the summer in the lake area this year, with many spotted here for the first time.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs shows that there are about 110 finless porpoises living in the lake, with their number growing steadily, according to He Daming, chairman of the East Dongting Lake Ecological Protection Society.

The finless porpoise, a severely endangered aquatic mammal - and the only one living in the Yangtze - is an indicator species of the aquatic ecosystem of the river.

"The growth of the species is proof that the lake"s environment has improved. The trend is really encouraging for people who are constantly working to protect it," He said.