Jiang Xiaochong, from Shangshui village in the Wanzhi district of Wuhu, Anhui province, squatted beside a pond in front of his house, washing vegetables for his lunch just as he did when he was a child.
"It's not something I could have imagined doing again years ago, since the pond had become severely polluted and smelly," he said.
Wanzhi literally means "small land in the middle of the estuary".Located near the junction of the Yangtze and Qingyi rivers, the district is full of water resources.
But this village in inland Anhui, intersected with rivers and scattered with ponds, has seen its waters deteriorate due to increasing pollution from decades of wanton manufacturing and sprawling livestock.
For example, in 2015, the majority of surface water was lowered to Grade IV, the second lowest in China's five-tier water quality evaluation system, data from the local water resource authority showed.
This destroyed the villagers' sweet memories about their hometown, Jiang said, and the local government has been striving to improve the rural environment and people's livelihood since 2015.
A report by the Wanzhi government showed that the district's investment in pollution prevention projects reached 700 million yuan ($108 million) last year, about 3.6 percent of its GDP.
The government has invested 300 million yuan to collect and process garbage and has issued policies requiring livestock to be raised on qualified farms, meaning the pollutants from the farms have to meet the requirements, according to Ding Meijian, deputy director of the district's water resource bureau.
In 2019, 185 unqualified livestock farms were closed, further cutting emissions, the report showed.
"Now, the proportion of surface water quality at and lower than Grade IV has been reduced to less than 20 percent," Ding said.
With the environment improving, Taoxin township, which governs Shangshui, has become more attractive－particularly its lotus plants, which have been blooming in its clean rivers and ponds since 2017.