Green efforts yield picturesque results
Rural Shanxi has a better appearance thanks to efforts in environmental protection and farmland improvement. [Photo by Yang Jianfeng for China Daily]
In late August when the summer vacation was coming to an end, the Zhangze Lake National Wetland Park in the southeast Shanxi city of Changzhi was still filled with tourists.
Many of them were photography enthusiasts, in addition to ordinary sightseers.
What attracted them were hectares of the blooming lotus flowers and flocks of water fowl on the lake.
Lyu Qingshan, a local photographer, said that things were very different from more than a decade ago.
"In the past, the vicinity of the lake was a vast expanse of wild marsh," Lyu said. "Nobody wanted to go near because of the stench of the lake's water."
He explained that the lake was polluted by untreated sewage from the city of Changzhi. "According to local media reports, the water quality of Zhangze was kept in Class V or below for many years."
In China, the water quality is divided into five classes, with Class V being the lowest standard for agricultural and industrial use. That below Class V marks a high level of pollution.
Recent reports from the local monitoring stations showed that the water quality has been stabilized around Class III in recent years. The latest survey also indicated the number of bird species has reached nearly 170.
The improvement of the lake is a result of the Shanxi authorities' relentless efforts in curbing pollution and promoting the recovery of the ecological environment throughout the province.
The Yellow River and its branches in Shanxi, as well as other rivers flowing eastward, are the major targets of this decadeslong environmental improvement campaign.
The latest survey shows that of the 94 surface water sections under national supervision in the province, 81 had achieved water quality better than Class III during the first half of this year, accounting for 86.2 percent of the total, an increase of 8.8 percentage points compared to the same period of last year.
There were also significant achievements in air pollution control. In the first half of this year, the average concentration of PM2.5 – particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less – sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone dropped by 2.4 percent, 7.7 percent, 6.2 percent and 5.1 percent from the same period of last year. Good and excellent air quality had been reported for 64.5 percent of the days during the period.
But Shanxi won't rest on its laurels. Local authorities said they will continue to work on improving the environment.
According to Zhao Liang, an official at the Shanxi Department of Ecology and Environment, about 280 projects are on the province's task list for this year's environmental protection, with investment totaling 104.6 billion yuan ($14.31 billion).
These projects include emission-reducing upgrades of steelmaking, coking and cement-making plants; construction of sewage treatment facilities in industrial areas, and projects for sewage treatment and soil improvement in the rural regions.
The province is also promoting the use of digital technologies to aid environmental monitoring and environment-related law enforcement.
Devices like cameras, drones, robots and senses, which are connected through 5G networks, are widely used in environmental monitoring, substantially increasing the accuracy and efficiency of the environmental protection work, according to Zhao.
Cheng Guoyuan contributed to this story.