The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is helping China address and reverse decades of ecological degradation to one of the nation's most valuable fresh-water resources, the lender said on Wednesday.
Called the "Kidney of North China," the Baiyangdian Lake and the ecosystem it supports are at constant risk from falling water levels, soil erosion and wastewater runoff, the multilateral development bank said in a press release.
To help counter the environmental damage, ADB is providing a loan of US$100 million for the US$273 million Integrated Ecosystem and Water Resources Management in the Baiyangdian Basin Project. The project will focus on the critical needs to conserve Baiyangdian Lake, one of the most important and vulnerable ecosystems in China, ADB added.
"The project will demonstrate an innovative integrated ecosystem and water resources management approach to improve the environmental condition in the Baiyangdain Basin," said Akmal Siddiq, Natural Resources Economist of ADB's East Asia Department.
"The ecosystem in the lake is constantly at risk," the economist said.
Located in the central part of Hebei province, Baiyangdian Lake has a total area of 366 square kilometers. It is home to 36 lake villages and 62 lakeside villages with a population of 200,000 people. It is the largest fresh water lake and wetland in north China, and plays an important role in balancing the ecosystem there.
Reeds grown in the area are used to produce about 7 million tons of reed mats a year, making up 40 percent of the national total. Lotus and water chestnuts are also grown there, and the lake is home to more than 50 types of fish. It is also an important refueling site for migratory birds on the East Asian- Australasian flyway.
The project will also engage in a wide range of sub-projects that will improve wastewater treatment plants, water supply systems, urban flood management, comprehensive water management, and solid waste management in the basin which covers 31,500 square kilometers, according to ADB.
In the last four decades, the functions and values of the basin and the lake have been eroded substantially with adverse impacts on its ecosystem. The lake and its upper watershed support significant biodiversity of regional and global significance. The open water and aquatic beds of the lake are spawning grounds and feeding habitats for a diverse array of fish and other animal species.
The size of the lake has decreased by almost half in the past four decades because of controlled water flows, continuous droughts, and soil erosion. Rising population, expanded agricultural and industrial activities, with limited solid and wastewater disposal measures, have transformed the lake into a major depository of wastewater discharges, pollutant substances, and sediments.
(Xinhua News Agency June 26, 2008)