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December 2, 2010

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Wildlife returns to creek

BIRDS, fish and aquatic plants are returning to Suzhou Creek, a testimony to years of cleaning up the once heavily polluted waterway, local government officials said yesterday.

However, the creek's ecological system has not yet recovered, officials with the Suzhou Creek Rehabilitation Office added.

Suzhou Creek was synonymous with Shanghai's industrialization, with many factories springing up on the banks of the busy shipping route in the 19th century.

The campaign to clean the waterway was started by the city government in 1996. It covers 855 square kilometers, including the creek's main stream and six tributaries.

Officials said most of the creek waters are no longer black and foul smelling and major pollution indicators have decreased by more than 60 percent.

Seagulls and gray herons have been spotted on the creek in recent years, attracted by shoals of fish in the once barren waters.

Fish were drawn back by growing numbers of aquatic plants and riverbed invertebrates, especially in the lower streams, where the number of creatures has doubled, officials said. However, the creek's water quality is still worse than ordinary rivers, officials said.

New initiatives are on the way. A dredging project to remove polluted silt from the riverbed will be completed in the first half of next year, officials said. After that, more sightseeing boats will go into service to boost tourism.

Following years of environmental work, both banks of the creek now have public greenery areas and riverside viewing platforms.

Historic buildings along the creek, such as China's earliest industrial factory complexes, have been preserved.


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