Local children swim and play in Cuihu Lake in Pujiang county, the target of Zhejiang province's "Water Movement" launched in June 2013. (Photo/China Daily)
Policymakers in Zhejiang faced a seemingly intractable dilemma as the Water Movement got underway: How could they fix Pujiang's environmental problems without triggering an economic slump in the county?
It was eventually decided that they could only square this circle by dramatically consolidating the entire crystal industry, shutting down Pujiang's thousands of outdated, difficult-to-regulate workshops and promoting modern, large-scale production.
"The transformation and upgrading of the industrial structure is essential to solving the water problem," said Huang Hai, deputy director of Pujiang's environmental protection bureau.
The government launched a huge campaign to shut down workshops operating without a business license, enlisting every government department and the public to root out any violators. Often, they inspected workshops at midnight to catch clandestine polluters red-handed.
But, crucially, the government also invested 5.5 billion yuan to build the Pujiang Crystal Business Park, which opened in August 2015.
The region's remaining crystal companies were given the choice of moving to the new park or investing in their own sewage treatment systems, according to Huang.
More than 21,000 of Pujiang's crystal companies shut down as a result of these measures. Of the 614 producers that survived the crackdown, 526 are now based in the park.
The Crystal Park has helped Pujiang's crystal industry remain competitive. Its centralized waste treatment system allows companies to share the costs, while the generous subsidies it provides help boost tenants' profits further.
Automating production also plays a key role in cost-cutting. "I used to employ 100 workers before moving to the Crystal Park, but now I only need ten," says Luo Yintian, owner of Luoxiao Crystal.
Pujiang's crystal industry has not only survived the anti-pollution campaign but grown significantly. Its output value in 2016 was more than 9 billion yuan, up from 6 billion yuan in 2013.
This wealth is also trickling down to the wider economy. Per capita disposable income rose another 20 percent in Pujiang between 2013 and 2016, according to Zhejiang Online.
Workers who lost their jobs have either moved back to their home provinces or been paid compensation, according to the county government, with many using the money to set up agribusinesses growing grapes and Chinese toon.
Pujiang's cleaner environment is also helping new businesses sprout up. Xinguang village, which once choked on the fumes of 300 crystal workshops, is now a tourist spot housing trendy bars, cafes and boutiques.
In Cuihu, Zhou has also prospered from the water campaign. His new tenants have converted the old workshop into a restaurant, and pay him 5,000 yuan more a year in rent. He's now retired and spends his evenings strolling around the lake with his granddaughter.
"There are many people walking beside the lake in the evenings these days," he said with a smile.