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Manufacturers, Exporters, Wholesalers - Global trade starts here.
Honghu Lake Being Rejuvenated

Thriving reeds, water grass and lotus leaves wave along the Yangcaihu section of Honghu Lake to the gentle winds as thousands of migratory birds hover above.


Fertile and richly-endowed Honghu Lake, the seventh largest lake in China, is located southeast of central China's Hubei Province. Steeped in Chinese history and culture, the beautiful and clean lake has been the subject of fables, poetry, songs and paintings.


However, visitors to the place these days would have no idea that just early last year, the open water area was almost cut into small patches of fish ponds with bamboo poles and nets protruding here and there, according to Xiao Xinyuan, a fisherman in Yangcaihu Village.


Extensive crab cultivation took up as much as 70 percent of the lake area, quickly eroding the lake's ecosystem, the Beijing-based China Daily reported on Saturday.


For five years, local fishermen and residents saw few migratory birds in the lake area.


In the early 1990s, many migrants arrived at the lake to purchase three to five-year leases for enclosed areas of water to farm freshwater crabs.


Xiao and many local fishermen around the lake also joined the enclosing campaign.


They were unaware that the messy partition of open water with nets and bamboo poles affected not only the lake's scenery, but also the natural distribution of aquatic life.


Worse, to intensify crab production in small areas of the lake, they fed crabs with human food leftovers such as potatoes and pig guts, an organic load too large for the water quality and local ecosystem to remain undamaged for long.


Then, the price for water crabs continued to drop till it reached a low level that made crab farming become economically non-viable.


Right after the fall in the price of crabs in 2003, the Hubei provincial government started a Honghu Lake wetland reserve restoration project. It became one of five national wetland restoration projects funded by State Forestry Administration of China.


Last year, the government purchased a three-sq-km demonstration area in Yangcaihu. Meanwhile, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) joined the program by offering best practice both in conservation and community-based co-management as well as training of local reserve staff.


While all the nets and bamboo poles were removed, local fishermen like Xiao were compensated with water fields near the lake bank to farm fish.


Underwater plants were reintroduced. The population of crabs and carps, harmful for the growth of water plants, was well controlled.


The conservation efforts have paid off.


Today, the pilot area has partially recovered its original wetland landscape and species, as well as water quality.


Oriental white stork, a globally endangered species with a world population of roughly around 3,000 individuals, also returned to the site this year. The last sighting had been in 1995.


These days, more bamboo poles and nets are being uprooted from the core area of Honghu Lake's wetland nature reserve, an area of 86 sq km.


Moreover, the provincial government has appropriated some 60 million yuan (some US$7.4 million) to compensate local farmers and help them find alternative livelihoods. The goal is to restore the "historical glory" of the lake within five years.


It also constitutes a part of the province's more ambitious program to restore the ecosystem of lakes in Hubei, all located in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River.


The restoration program, launched in 2002, was part of a five-year eco-partnership between WWF and HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation).


(Xinhua News Agency October 31, 2005)


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