Save Yundang Lake

Yundang Lake has always been a popular topic among Xiamen citizens. Turned from a wharf of the open sea to an inner salt water lake in 1970s due to the land reclamation in the industrialization process, it got its name from a kind of bamboo growing near the water and has been a famous site for entertainment in the center of the city. As a result, it has been regarded as a familiar friend by Xiamen citizens. However, this friend is experiencing long-lasting environmental problems that worry all of us.

Early in 1980s, Yundang Lake was already suffering from water pollution from factories and neighborhoods. The water turned muddy and smelly — a great habitat for flies and mosquitoes. Nobody dared pass by the lake and people in nearby apartments closed their windows tightly. The most saddening consequence was the departure of various kinds of fish and birds that used to dwell on the lake, especially egrets, which are the most beautiful and beloved birds in Xiamen city. (to learn more about egrets in Xiamen, check out my article Regaining the White Color: Feeling the urge to improve the life of animals and citizens, the government paid much attention to improving the ecological status of the lake. During the past 35 years, the government has applied many different approaches such as driving clean water from Jiulong River, cleaning up deposited silt and replanting the mangroves nearby, which provide habitat and food source for creatures that are beneficial to the ecological balance of the lake. Unfortunately, though some effect is seen, similar water quality problems emerge year after year. Egrets and other birds have trouble finding habitats all the time.

Silt, weed and cans floating on the water

As I visited Yundang Lake in person last month, the condition has been improved — the water was no longer smelly, and generally looked cleaner than before. However, I frowned when I walked near the lake water. Close to the river bank where the water is shallow, large clusters of dirty mud and weed either floated on the surface or lay under it. Among the clusters, rubbish such as plastic bags and tin cans scattered around. I wandered around the lake for about half an hour, but only saw two egrets flying across the lake. In the rest of the time, the lake remained silent, making me feel like it was a pool of dead water. Obviously, the problem hasn’t been solved and we need to work harder on it.

A lonely egret

People either get worried or complain about Yundang Lake at all times, but is the government the only one that is responsible for this situation? Or, do all of us truly have nothing to do with the problem of our dearest friend? It is not difficult to find out the answer. Only a few months ago, it was reported that police officers were having trouble with the regulation of illicit fishing in Yundang Lake. These “fishermen” threw fishing poles or even nets into the lake only to satisfy their own needs. Those with fishing poles were a bit easier to deal with since most only sought entertainment and therefore could be convinced; but the use of nets was meant to catch as many fish as possible, which is a bald-faced means to earn money. These “professionals” threw their nets regularly each day, gaining a bunch of fish living under the lake and selling them out later. They were not afraid of being spotted and blamed since the police did not have enough power to force them leave; even if the nets are confiscated, the loss would be too little to be taken into account. Some even protested with violence, which could take a large portion of the police force to appease. Illicit fishing has greatly broken the ecological balance of the lake by reducing the number of creatures, especially those that can serve as egrets’ food. This makes it extremely difficult for egrets to survive. Water pollution from neighborhoods and littering of passers-by are also important factors that worsened the situation of Yundang Lake. All of these are what happen around us every day.

So how can we help out our old friend? Be respectful. As common citizens, we also have many to do. We can convince our friends to avoid poking their poles into the lake just for fun. Instead, we can find out other places of interest suitable for fishing, which will save at least a part of egret’s food. We can volunteer to clean up the lake by picking up reachable rubbish in the water, or help drag out the remaining nets from fishermen to prevent fish and egrets from being trapped. With the government completing its role by trying to regulate illegal fishing and alleviate pollution, we can take action to help through details. Nevertheless, the government should come up with innovative approaches to save Yundang Lake. Silt cleaning is only the simplest way — it is unable to get rid of the root cause of the problem. It is the government’s responsibility to do more research and find out what truly causes the continuous water quality problem of the lake: is it the lack of water cycling or the illegal pollution from factories? After that, solutions based on this specific cause should take place. If the major problem lies on water cycling, the government can redesign the structure of the lake and make it more open to rivers and seas outside; if it is about water pollution from factories, not only should the government set up stricter laws regulating pollution, but also it should put more efforts on execution, making sure that law-breaking factories face punishment like suspending production. It is also the government’s role to apply more effective strategies to regulate illicit fishing.

During these years, Yundang Lake has seen Xiamen turning from an unrecognized small coastal city to an economically successful and famous tourist city all along the way. It has brought thousands of hundreds of people precious memories about this city. To save our old friend, let us take action right now and bring back the vibrant Yundang Lake!

Thanks for your reading! As a local Xiamen student concerning about conservation, I would be really glad to hear your voice and have more discussion about solutions to existing environmental problems. Let me know if you have any opinions or suggestions!