Thirty years of all-female team effort on polluted Yunnan lake

Posted: October 25, 2021 at 2:06 am MDT|Update: 23 minutes ago

KUNMING, China, 25 October 2021 / PRNewswire / – This is a report from China SCIO:

At the top of the southwestern plateaus from China Yunnan and next to the provincial capital Kunming is Dianchi Lake, known as the “sparkling pearl encrusted in the plateau”. A local nursery rhythm describes its beauty: “Lake Dianchi stretches far into the sky with sparkling clear water of unlimited width. Row your boat, dance with the fish and happily come home after sunset. “

The lyrics could have perfectly captured Li Yunli’s life in his youth. She remembered joining her family every day to go fishing and return with the boat full of bounties from the lake.

The 58-year-old also remembered the end of that quiet life in the 1980s for herself and others who depended on the lake for their livelihood. Rapid urbanization and industrialization began to devastate the environment and ecosystem of the lake. After barely a decade, Dianchi has become one of the most polluted lakes in China, with the water quality rated “below grade V”, the worst level in the national rating system.

“The water was cloudy and smelly,” Li recalls. “The surface of the lake was covered with a layer of blue and green algae. And you couldn’t even move your paddles in some areas where the algae was very thick. . “

To help reverse the environmental damage and restore her mother lake, Li joined a new family – the all-female rescue team from the Xishan District in Kunming. She and other women on their life rafts began to help a 30-year effort around the lake to restore it to its former glory.

All-female rescue team

In 1986, when fishing in Dianchi Lake became increasingly untenable, men from the region’s generational fishing families gave up their gear and went elsewhere to earn a living.

But for Li and other women born near the waters and having lived there all their lives, Lake Dianchi was their hope. A team was formed that year by volunteers to clean up the algae and pick up the garbage. Li joined the early years of the team’s formation.

“I grew up here near Lake Dianchi, the cleaning job is for our mother lake, for myself and also for the good of our next generation,” she said.

Over the past 30 years, several generations of the all-female rescue team have worked on the lake. When a mother left, she passed the baton to a daughter. They replaced the fishing boats with more maneuverable rafts and used their hands and simple nets instead of the larger fishing nets.

“The work is tiring and dirty, but I feel gratified because what I do can help to treat the pollution of our mother lake.” Li, the current team leader, said with pride.

As soon as 5 a.m.Li would get up and prepare food for the day. She spent 10 hours on the raft when pollution was greatest in the 1990s, and had lunch on the lake surrounded by smelly, cloudy water.

“Each raft can collect 250kg to 300kg of waste at that time, including dead water plants, water hyacinth, moss and white waste,” Li said. “The work is so heavy that ‘you have to save time as much as possible.

Despite the difficulties, members of the rescue team continued their work and more and more women began to join. From around 10 at the very start, the number rose to over 100 at the highest, with the youngest being 38 and the oldest 62.

Clean-up campaign

Since 1995, the local government has started to intensify its efforts to restore Lake Dianchi. According to state media, authorities have so far spent around 50 billion yuan (7.77 billion US dollars) on remediation works and environmental treatment.

To prevent sewage from entering the Dianchi Lake basin, Kunming City has constructed nearly 100 kilometers of pollution interception pipes along the lake shore and 28 sewage treatment plants in the towns and cities of the city. All wastewater had to be carefully treated before being reused or discharged into the lake.

In recent years, a shift in restoration approaches has taken place from one-off pollution control to integrated rehabilitation of the lake ecosystem. A belt of green wetlands 200 meters wide has been created around the lake. Huang Yuhong, deputy director of the Kunming Dianchi Plateau Lake Research Institute, said the wetland can effectively purify water before it flows into the lake.

As manpower and government resources poured in, the all-female rescue team’s workload became less stressful. Nowadays, the number in Li’s team remains around 30.

Huang said that in addition to the strong involvement of the government, the active participation of citizens like Li’s team is also very important. “[The women] have a strong attachment to Lake Dianchi, ”she said. “They believe that protecting their mother lake is in their long-term best interests. “

Restoration of the lake ecosystem

In a pond in the Baofeng Wetland near Dianchi, shoals of golden barbels swirl and soar among freshwater mussels and aquatic plants with delicate white flowers floating on the surface. The barbels originate from Dianchi and had already disappeared at the height of the pollution of the lake.

The return of endangered fish species is one of the definitive signs of major environmental improvement over the years, and other animals are returning as well. According to ecological experts in Kunming, a number of species known to be susceptible to environmental degradation are making a comeback. In addition, the number of plant species around the lake has increased from 230 to 303 in the past eight years.

Another key indicator is the improvement in the quality of the lake water. In 2019, the water in Lake Dianchi received an IV rating, indicating that it is suitable for industrial use but is still not drinkable.

So for Dianchi’s daughters, their mission continues.

“As long as we need to clean up Dianchi, we will continue with our work,” Li said. “We are really looking forward to seeing a cleaner and clearer Dianchi, and we hope that one day we can drink straight from the lake like this. that we did in our childhood. “

Dianchi’s Daughters: Thirty Years of All-Female Team Efforts on the Polluted Lake of Yunnan

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