Tourists in the Baiyangdian scenic spot (Photo: Huang Ge/GT)
The establishment of the Xiongan New Area in North China's Hebei Province has drawn the public's attention at nearby Baiyangdian, the largest freshwater lake in northern China. Local authorities have been devoted to treating the lake's pollution and restoring its ecological environment amid concerns that the new economic zone would pose threats to its wetlands. Meanwhile, local residents are feeling confused about where they should move to and what kinds of jobs they could take after factories they work for might be closed in the future due to the establishment of the new area and the anti-pollution efforts. But experts have assured that rising demand for labor services as many large companies continue moving to Xiongan can help to reduce unemployment.
Zhang Helai, a boatman in his 40s who lived at Baiyangdian, North China's Hebei Province, never expected large changes to take place in his hometown.
"Since the government announced in April what officials call 'the project of the millennium' - the Xiongan New Area, located near Baiyangdian - the region has captured nationwide attention and raised concerns that the new economic zone could imperil the wetlands," Zhang told the Global Times on Sunday.
Baiyangdian, which covers 366 square kilometers of water area, was once known as "the Kidney of North China."
But the lake has gradually been polluted by hundreds of small copper smelters, aluminum factories and clothes factories upstream, which have been dumping sewage into it for decades.
"Polluting factories have been shut down one after another in recent months," Zhang said, noting that local authorities have strengthened efforts to treat water pollution and restore the fragile ecosystem of Baiyangdian in an aim to help support the growth of the Xiongan New Area.
China announced plans on April 1 to establish the new economic zone, which is about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing and spans Hebei's Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin counties, all under the administration of Baoding city in Hebei.
Over the past four decades, local authorities have endeavored to address water pollution in Baiyangdian.
When visiting the main body of Baiyangdian, which is located in Anxin, on Sunday, the Global Times found that there is an abundance of water and that water quality in the center of the lake is good.
Thick beds of reed rim the two sides of the waterway in the farther area of the lake. But the water in the farther area looks turbid, with many waterweeds as well as some plastic bags covering the surface of the lake.
Household waste and factory emissions are major polluting sources to the water area of Baiyangdian, especially the areas around nearby villages, causing eutrophication, Bai Ou, an industrial expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Another problem is that Baiyangdian has been suffering from deposits of waste, which rise to the water's surface when the wind blows due to the lake not being that deep.
Local authorities have been determined to fight water pollution within the region and greater efforts are to be made in the future, including the blocking of polluted water flow into Baiyangdian and strictly controlling emissions from companies and factories near the region, according to Bai.
"Several large sewage treatment facilities will be built in the Xiongan New Area," Bai said, adding that, "merely closing polluting factories cannot thoroughly solve pollution issues, so local authorities are expected to enhance supervision for companies to make sure their emissions reach certain environmental standards."