Green Development

Hefei benefits from lake conservation

Updated: Apr 17, 2023 By Zhu Lixin in Hefei China Daily Print
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The mayor of Hefei, Anhui province, is emphasizing conservation of the city's abundant wetland resources for more eco-friendly modernization.

Hefei has been a hot spot for enterprises and talent in recent years, with the city's gross domestic product surpassing 1.2 trillion yuan ($172.3 billion) and its permanent resident population increasing last year by nearly 170,000 to more than 9.63 million.

"While pursuing high-quality development, we will keep striving to enable residents to enjoy their environment more," Mayor Luo Yunfeng said.

Luo, who is also a deputy to the 14th National People's Congress, said during this year's two sessions that the city now has one wetland site of national stature, plus five national and three provincial wetland parks, with an area totaling 118,200 hectares. It also has the province's highest wetland protection rate — 76 percent.

In January, three rare Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) were observed for the first time at the city's Chaohu Lake, the country's fifth- largest freshwater lake.

"Chaohu Lake and the 10 major wetland habitats around it have 562 plant species and 381 bird species so far. More bird and plant species have been found in the region in recent years," Luo said, adding that last year marked a milestone for Hefei's wetland conservation efforts.

During the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP14) to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands held in November in Wuhan, Hubei province, Hefei was accredited as an international wetland city. The accreditation has been awarded to 43 cities around the world, including 13 in China.

Luo, who has been working in Hefei since 2017, said the city's wetland sites are not only attracting many migratory birds seeking shelter during their travels but are also a hot destination for locals to take a stroll. He said he had learned that the situation was otherwise not too many years ago.

"With the accelerating industrialization and urbanization, the watershed of Chaohu Lake had once been subject to an explosively rising population and worsening water pollution," Luo said.

In 1996, the central authorities listed the lake and its feeder rivers as key targets for pollution control.

The city has taken a number of measures to protect the environment around the lake, including banning fishing and turning agricultural fields into wetlands.

The central authorities listed Hefei in 2017 as one of 28 cities for a pilot program to increase the capacity to adapt to climate change through a combination of measures.

The measures included building more climate-resilient infrastructure and facilities and improving the roles of urban wetland ecosystems, such as urban lakes, to address climate change, according to documents of the pilot program.

In 2018, the Hefei government made a plan to strive for the international wetland city accreditation and launched a major project to restore the 10 wetland sites.

To make the goals irrevocable, the standing committee of the Hefei People's Congress, the local legislative body, made a regulation exclusively for the wetlands in 2019, Luo said. The regulation drew the initial boundaries of the wetland sites and ruled that their sizes and ecological functions could not be degraded.

By July last year, when the project was completed, the sites had seen a total investment of 5.85 billion yuan, with 7,005 rural households relocated away from the areas.

For the first two months of this year, the water quality of the lake remained at Grade III, according to the local government.

Under China's six-tier quality system for surface water, the quality of water is considered fairly good if it reaches Grade III and above.

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