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Lake Baiyangdian Journal: Sacred Lakes Threatened by China’s Growing Capital

As one of the few officials willing to talk publicly about the project, Professor Zhou gave a fairly upbeat assessment. First, he noted that the plan was announced only in April and that details had not been worked out. So, he says, talk of demolitions is “premature.”

He said the New Area could likely help improve the region’s poor water quality. In the 1950s, wetlands and lakes covered nearly 300 square miles and were fed by nine rivers flowing from the Taihang Mountains. The area was famous for its aquaculture and clear waters.

Then began a program of dam-building that has transformed much of China, limiting chronic flooding that has plagued the country for centuries, and providing clean hydropower. But the effect on wetlands was catastrophic. The area’s marshes and lakes shrank in half, industries appeared and the water is now undrinkable.

“The reason is that local governments did what they pleased,” Professor Zhou said. “Now, under central government control, the factories will be closed and the water cleaned up.”

Independent experts said they believed this could be the case. Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a think tank in Beijing, said the project would lead to an influx of new residents, which would increase water use. But it would also very likely qualify for new government funding that could restore the ecosystem.

Source: NYT > World

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