Baiyangdian, northern China’s largest freshwater wetland, will see its ecological environment further improve as part of the Xiongan New Area, according to local authorities.
“The water quality will get better,” said Liu Dongchen, administrative head of the Baiyangdian Wetland Nature Reserve. “The new area will certainly enhance the wetland’s ecological conservation.”
The wetland is mainly in Anxin, one of three counties included in the new area in Hebei province.
The new area, the third national special economic zone after Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and Shanghai Pudong New Area, is of national significance and “crucial for the millennium to come”, according to the central government.
Since it is home to Baiyangdian, the new area is ecologically healthy, He Lifeng, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said after China announced on April 1 that it would set up the new area.
He made the remarks while explaining the reasons for choosing the location.
The ecological protection of Baiyangdian was listed as a priority task by President Xi Jinping during an inspection tour of Anxin on Feb 23.
With 143 lakes and covering 366 square kilometers, Baiyangdian has been dubbed the “kidney” of the North China Plain. It has many ecological functions, such as maintaining balance, regulating climate and conserving water, according to the administration.
However, Baiyangdian’s water quality and ecosystem have declined since the 1980s due to periods of drought and discharges of industrial wastewater, household waste and sewage－as well as villagers’ destructive behaviors, such as breeding fish and removing reeds from the water.
In recent years, a series of ecological restoration measures were undertaken to improve the situation.
More than 25 polluting factories around Baiyangdian have been closed, and 68 companies have installed environmental protection facilities.
Villages near the reserve have been equipped with sewage and waste treatment equipment to ensure that no more waste is pumped in and that sewage is treated before flowing into the wetland.
Zhang Guozeng, a 64-year-old fisherman from Xiaozhangzhuang village next to Baiyangdian, said it is harder now than in the past to catch wild fish.
“The water quality is better, and there are no net cages for breeding fish in the water anymore,” he said.
He has been catching fish in Baiyangdian for years and hopes the Xiongan New Area will bring more good changes.
“I miss my childhood when villagers could drink water directly from Baiyangdian,” Zhang said.
According to the NDRC, a plan on pollution control and ecological conservation of Baiyangdian was among the first plans to be drafted for the new area’s development.