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November 3, 2009

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Tough law sought to protect lakes

SENIOR Chinese legislator Chen Zhili yesterday called for stronger laws to stop lake water pollution and prevent lakes from disappearing.

Chen, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, made the comment in an address to the 13th World Lake Conference that opened yesterday in Wuhan, known as "the city of a hundred lakes," capital of central China's Hubei Province.

Chen called for the establishment of lake-protection laws and strict judicial and administrative means in the management and supervision of industrial, agricultural and household waste, especially that of highly-contaminating facilities such as paper mills and chemical plants.

Lakes, a key element in sustaining ecological balance, remained fragile in the face of rapid industrial growth and increasing human activities, which led to serious contamination and shrinkage that threatened people's living environment, she said.

China has more than 24,800 natural lakes. However, an average of 20 lakes disappeared every year, and about 88.6 percent were in a eutrophic state, she said.

Hubei Province, once known as "a province with 1,000 lakes," had just 2,438 square kilometers of lakes left, about 34 percent of the figure in the 1950s.

The shrinkage of lakes, water pollution and the degradation of ecological functions were urgent reasons to adopt scientific development of lakeside industries and to restrain the scale and type of production to allow lakes to rehabilitate, Chen said.

Zhou Shengxian, China's Environmental Protection Minister, said water environmental problems from home and abroad prompted China to pursue ecological rehabilitation of rivers and lakes.

Japan's experience in protecting Biwa Lake from degradation, which involved limiting waste discharge, higher environment standards, and strict requirements for the treatment of household sewage since the 1970s, also inspired China.

"Lake contamination exists everywhere in the world," Masahisa Nakamura, scientific committee chairman of the International Lake Environment Committee, told the conference. "Water stays in a lake much longer than in a river, so it can take 100 years to tackle a polluted lake."

At least 1,500 delegates from about 45 countries are attending the conference, which runs till Thursday under the theme, "The Rehabilitation of our Lakes: Global Challenges and Chinese Innovations."


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