Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, China's largest freshwater lake, has suffered from alarmingly low water levels since 2006. Some irresponsible people have erected small dams around the lake, occupying public waters for their personal use. Labeled "draining the pond to get all the fish," these illicit actions have not only severely damaged the local ecology but also harmed fishing production. Deputies to the Fifth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress (NPC), which concluded yesterday in Beijing, have united in calling for helping fishery resources recover by stimulating ecological improvement and cracking down on lawbreakers.
To date, Poyang and Yugan county governments have destroyed a dozen illegal dams to help alleviate the pressure on local fishing resources. Moreover, deputies to the 10th National People's Congress have called for an end to a traditional way of living near Poyang, known as "living near the water, living off the water." They argue that local people living in this manner are making illegal use of local resources.
Poyang Lake benefits not only Jiangxi Province, but is also essential to the whole Yangtze River Delta, said Fu Qionghua, chief engineer with the Jiangxi Water Conservancy Research Institute and an NPC deputy, adding "that its health will also ensure the well-being of the water supply to Jiangsu and Shandong provinces and Tianjin Municipality. It thus stands out as a national strategic storage of water resources."
The Poyang Lake lies in the north of Jiangxi Province and on the southern bank of the Yangtze River. It extends for 162,200 square kilometers, covering close to 9 percent of total Yangtze River valley. Its basin is also a fertile ground, serving as one of China's important grain production bases.
Fu said that the illegal dams are also interfering with the natural flow of floodwater. Poyang Lake has five tributaries in the province, the Ganjiang, Fuhe, Xinjiang, Raohe and Xiushui rivers, which all contribute to the lake's water levels. "The dams reduce the water surface area and water capacity. Once the flood season comes, the lake's flood control function will greatly be weakened," said Fu.
Xu Suhui, director of the Jiangsu Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau, revealed a lack of cooperation between local authorities, particularly the fishery, forestry and water conservancy departments. "They lack coordination and cooperation, so law enforcement systems must be reformed," she stressed.
Prior to the 1980s, moves to reclaim land from the lake and artificially receding the waters further worsened by rapid population growth, which led to frequent floods and prolonged periods of drought.
Since 1998 when the Yangtze River was ravaged by massive floods, the Chinese government has launched a range of programs aiming to "let cultivated land revert to its natural state." Thanks to this, Poyang Lake's surface has increased from 3,950 square kilometers in 1998 to 4,350 square kilometers today, with over 900,000 residents moving away from the lake area.
Director Fu explained that the encroachment on water areas is directly related to the area's industrial landscape. "To change the situation, local governments adopt an ecological recovery system which will complement the area's economic development," Fu said.
Addressing the need to curb the illegal use of wetlands and fishing resources around the lake, Ni Guoxi and Chen Qinghua, two members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), submitted a joint proposal to the fifth session of the 10th CPPCC National Committee, calling for precise legislation addressing the implementation of the Poyang Lake ecological protection project. Their plan proposed that the Chinese government place the project under a specialized plan benefiting from tailored investment to rapidly make the lake "a wetland with a good ecology and environment."
(China.org.cn by Li Jingrong March 17, 2007)