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[Rednet] Liu Siwei: Focus on Ecological Remediation and Wake up Vigorous Dongting Lake

2017-06-29 15:31:05

On April 14th,2017, which marked the third anniversary of the State Council’s approval of the Dongting Lake Ecological Economic Zone Planning, the Hunan Provincial Research Institute for Regional Economic and Social Development of Dongting Lake held a symposium at which famous experts were invited to discuss the development of the Dongting Lake Ecological Economic Zone. Leaders from the Reform Office of the Hunan Provincial CPC Committee, Hunan Provincial Dongting Lake Office and Hunan Federation of Social Science attended and addressed the symposium. This article is from the speech delivered at the symposium by Liu Siwei (photo above), the former counselor of the People’s Government of Hunan Province, the director of the academic committee of HNUC, professor, doctoral advisor and the deputy director of Hunan Provincial Research Institute for Regional Economic and Social Development of Dongting Lake.

On April 14th 2014, the State Council approved the Dongting Lake Ecological Economic Zone Planning, marking the official inclusion of the economic zone into the national strategy. It is an important event in the history of economic development in Hunan. In the approval, the State Council stressed the need to “build the Dongting Lake Ecological Economic Zone into a more beautiful and richly-endowed Great Lake Economic Zone”, and emphasized the need to “explore a new way to realize the comprehensive economic and social development through ecological progress in the great lake basin”. Three years on, the Dongting Lake area has experienced a tremendous transformation, but progress is yet to be made in turning it into a great lake. I am reiterating the need to focus on ecological remediation, implement the returning-farmland-to-lake project, and wake up the vigorous Dongting Lake, so as to fundamentally control the ecological deterioration of Dongting Lake.

I. Waking up the vigorous Dongting Lake is the key to improving the water ecosystem in the lake

Historically, the water system of the Dongting Lake was mainly characterized by the connectivity and complementarity with the Yangtze River. As Fan Zhongyan wrote in the Yueyang Pavilion, “the Dongting Lake holds the mountain ranges in the distance and swallows the water of the Yangtze River. It is so vast and might that it seems boundless...this beautiful scenic spot is linked with the Wu Gorge in the north and the Xiaoshui River and Xiangjiang River in the south.” In the flood season “when summer melts your snow and rivers overflow, for fish and turtles men would become food”, the Dongting Lake used to store flood for the Yangtze River, and water from the Yangtze River flew back to the Dongting Lake; in the dry season, the Dongting Lake, together with water from the four rivers, replenished water to the Yangtze River.

However, since the operation of the Three Gorges Project, the relationship between the Yangtze River and the Dongting Lake has been changed, with the water ecosystem in the lake deteriorating seriously. Water control remains the main obstacle in improving the ecosystem of Dongting Lake, while waking up the vigorous Dongting Lake is the key to efficient water control.

1.    Addressing the deterioration of the water system in Dongting Lake requires expanding the surface of Dongting Lake. Since the Three Gorges Project was put in service, three new features have emerged in the operation of the water system in Dongting Lake, i.e., scarcity, immobility and smell. Firstly, Yangtze River is the main source of water for Dongting Lake, and the annual average water inflow from the Yangtze River into the four-inlet river system of Dongting Lake, which is less than 50% that before the Three Gorges Project was started, and will drop below 25% in ten years. This results in longer cutoff time of three inlets, and the annual cutoff time for Ouchi inlet is up to 336 days. Secondly, the water of Dongting Lake is immobile. Due to long-time sediment deposition, the ground elevation within the embankment is normally lower than the bottom elevation of outer lake. This prevents the water within the embankment from flowing to the outer lake, resulting in the poor immobility and weaker self-cleaning capacity of the surface and ground water within the embankment. Thirdly, water pollution is worsening. Poor immobility, weaker self-cleaning capacity and long-standing agricultural non-point source pollution, industrial pollution and garbage pollution result in worsening groundwater pollution. I have summed up and reported the three new features to the primary responsible person in the Dongting Lake field survey as early as 2011. To address the deterioration of the water system in Dongting Lake, we must solve the root cause, e.g. to expand the surface of Dongting Lake.

2. To enhance the service value of the water ecosystem in Dongting Lake requires expanding the surface of Dongting Lake. By reducing the division of lake face by embankment and expanding lake face, we can improve the internal water environment of Dongting Lake and restore the natural ecological and wetland resource system of Dongting Lake, thus comprehensively enhancing the service value of the water ecosystem in Dongting Lake. Expanding the lake surface will have four benefits: first, enable the water systems in rivers and Dongting Lake to connect and circulate at a faster pace, expand the ecological basic flow and significantly improve the self-cleaning capacity of the water systems in rivers and Dongting Lake; second, regulate the lake climate through water vapor circulation, and improve the air and water quality of the lake; third, better maintain the positive cycle of the wetland ecosystem in Dongting Lake, and maintain the sustainable development of species gene pool of Dongting Lake; fourth, eliminate the bilharziasis in a larger scale by means of the hydroecological method; fifth, after the surface of Dongting Lake is expanded to over 4,000 km2 as the perennial level, we may make full use of over 3 billion cubic meters of flood resources per year in the Xiangjiang River, Zijiang River, Yuanjiang River and Lishui River to greatly increase the availability and allocation capacity of water resources in Dongting Lake, thus meeting the water demands of the several million mu of cultivated land and millions of residents in the Dongting Lake area during the dry season.

3. To improve the flood storage capacity of Dongting Lake requires expanding the surface of Dongting Lake. The Three Gorges Project is critical to controlling the flood in the upstream of the Yangtze River, and indeed can reduce the flood peak from the main stream in the upstream of Yangtze River. However, it cannot address the root cause of flood for Dongting Lake. As a channel reservoir, the Three Gorges Project only has a flood control capacity of 22.15 billion cubic meters. In case of any catastrophic flood as serious as that in 1954, it will exceed the project’s capacity by over 28 billion cubic meters, and the existing flood control capacity of Dongting Lake is not sufficient to withstand a catastrophic flood disaster. Therefore, only through repeated scheduling by means of storing clear water and discharging muddy water, can the excess flood from the upstream of Yangtze River be controlled. In case of the Yangtze River and the Xiangjiang, Zijiang, Yuanjiang and Lishui Rivers in Hunan suffering rainstorm at the same time, severe flood may cause serious damages to the Dongting Lake area. No one can assure such situation will not occur in the future. The rapid industrialization and urbanization in the recent two decades spurs great demands for construction land, resulting in the encroachment of the ecological wetland in Dongting Lake area and weaker ability of the lake to detain flood and reduce peak. Therefore, effective measures must be taken to protect the ecological wetland in East Dongting Lake, South Dongting Lake and West Dongting Lake and to maintain sufficient flood storage polder and area, so as to store excess flood during flood seasons and to protect against the most serious flood.

4. To rejuvenate the water transport logistics in Dongting Lake requires further expanding the surface of Dongting Lake. Historically, Dongting Lake used to have a convenient and thriving water transport system featuring connectivity between major ports around the lake and in the downstream of the four rivers. However, with the emergence of polder, the lake face has been decreasing, direct link between major ports was cut off, and particularly during dry seasons, shallow water made it hard for ships to sail thereon, resulting in the obstruction of logistics and decline of water transport. After the surface of Dongting Lake is expanded, annual average water depth will be raised, and the water level of inner river channels will rise accordingly. At a result, the river channels will be further dredged, and direct connectivity between ports will be strengthened. Meanwhile, new ports may be built in the Maocaojie Town, Nanzhou Town, Zhuzikou Town and Lujiao Town around the Dongting Lake, to form a Dongting Lake navigation junction system centered at Chenglingji Port of Yueyang City. This will rejuvenate the strengths of Dongting Lake in water transport and logistics, and realize synthesis with areas along the Yangtze Golden Channel and the Belt and Road.

II. Returning farmland to lake to wake up the vigorous Dongting Lake

There exists a debate in Hunan Province on how to improve the water ecosystem of Dongting Lake and address the root cause of the ecological dilemma. Main solutions are as follows: The first solution, which has been submitted to the Central Government at the National People’s Congress, is to implement the Dongting Lake water control project near the Chenglingji Lingang New District of Yueyang City; the second solution, which has been put forward by a member of the provincial committee of CPPCC and the counselor of the People’s Government of Hunan Province, is to excavate a canal and channel to connect the downstream of Lishui River of West Dongting Lake with the Yangtze River; the third solution is to dredge the channel and remove sediments, including dredging the channel between Changsha and the Xiangjiang River in Yueyang firstly to expand the water storage capacity of Dongting Lake; the fourth solution is to earnestly implement the returning-farmland-to-lake project, storing the surface area of the lake to over 4,000 km2. From my point of view, the first three solutions, despite being reasonable and effective to a certain extent, cannot address the root cause of the water ecological crisis of Dongting Lake. I have been supporting the fourth method, that is, to restore the status of Dongting Lake as the largest freshwater lake in China and to build a real Great Lake Ecological Economic Zone. By doing so can we realize the synthesis between the Dongting dream and the China dream.

How to wake up the vigorous Dongting Lake? I’m in favor of the path of leveling embankment for flood, returning farmland to lake, encouraging settlement in towns and achieving city-industry integration. The most viable method is to combine the Datong Lake polder at the center of Datong Lake and the eastern polder of Datong Lake into a flood storage lake with a perennial water surface area of 1,390 km2, thus expanding the surface of Dongting Lake to 4,015 km2. This will restore the Dongting Lake’s reputation as the No.1 freshwater lake in China.

How to wake up the vigorous Dongting Lake? I’m in favor of the path of leveling embankment for flood, returning farmland to lake, encouraging settlement in towns and achieving city-industry integration. The most viable method is to combine the Datong Lake polder at the center of Datong Lake and the eastern polder of Datong Lake into a flood storage lake with a perennial water surface area of 1,390 km2, thus expanding the surface of Dongting Lake to 4,015 km2. This will restore the Dongting Lake’s reputation as the No.1 freshwater lake in China.

Huage Town of Nanxian County, Zhuzikou Town of Huarong County and Xingfu Village are under its jurisdiction. It covers an area of 213.18 km2, of which the cultivated land covers an area of 176,000 mu. It is the home to a population of 129,600. In the Qing dynasty, the Datong Lake polder had a wide lake face, and was connected to East Donting Lake in the east, Muping Lake in the west and the Yangtze River in the north through Ouchi river. It was part of the Dongting Lake before 1949. Upon embankment in 1951, it was built into an internal lake with a surface of 313.4 km2. The lake area has been decreasing after repeated reclamation.

By returning the farmland in Datong Lake polder and the east polder of Datong Lake to Dongting Lake and connecting it with lakes around, we can strive to build a great lake connecting the Yangtze River in the north and the four rivers in the south. By doing so, a system, with Datong Lake as the core connecting East Dongting Lake, South Dongting Lake and West Dongting Lake, can be built; it can fundamentally improve the ecological functions of Dongting Lake, increase its ability to store excess flood during flood seasons, and reconstruct a new Great Lake ecological, industrial and economic circle. In addition to creating ecological fishery and ecological agriculture, it may present new opportunities in the development of industries related to water transport, logistics, tourism, aquatic sports, ecological leisure, wetland tourism and cultural tourism with unique characteristics. The returning-farmland-to-lake project will result in a reduction of over 1.1 million mu of cultivated land. However, according to the estimates of experts from the water resources department of Hunan Province, the project will increase the land, which can ensure harvest whether in flood or dry seasons, by over 3.5 million mu around Dongting Lake, thus preventing the grain production from being affected.

Upon the completion of the returning-farmland-to-lake project, the flood storage capacity of 14 flood storage polders in the East Dongting Lake and South Dongting Lake can be replaced by the flood storage capacity of one polder in the Datong Lake which can store flood from the Xiangjiang River, Zijiang River, Yuanjiang River, Lishui River and the Yangtze River. This not only will improve the regional flood storage efficiency and flood control capacity, but also replace the 14 flood storage polders with 14 key polders.

Returning farmland in the Datong Lake polder and the east polder of Datong Lake to Dongting Lake is also an important project to resolve the economic downward pressure, remedy weak links in ecology and stimulate internal demands. The project, in addition to involving the resettlement of over 700,000 residents affected by the project, will comprise the construction of a 200km levee road around the lake, five key comprehensive junction projects, five major ports, reinforcement of major polders, a new round of increasing the capacity and quality of counties, and constructing towns with unique characteristics, urban agglomerations, and industrial parks with unique characteristics. Experts estimate the investment scale will be around CNY 200 billion.

Although it will be the largest ecological restoration project in Chinese history, the project will be implemented only within the territory of Hunan Province, without causing any dispute over the trans-provincial rivers, lakes, border resources and jurisdiction. Therefore, this project will be trouble free, as long as the approval and support from administrative departments at all levels are obtained.

III. Integrating three actions: returning farmland to lake, encouraging settlement in towns and accelerating urbanization of the lake area

The returning-farmland-to-lake project involves the resettlement of over 700,000 affected residents, which is the biggest challenge for us. More importantly, it is why the project, which has been discussed and planned, is yet to be implemented. Therefore, I recommend to integrate three actions: returning farmland to lake, encouraging settlement in towns and accelerating urbanization and city-industry integration, thus resettling residents from the lake area into nearby cities and towns.

1. Accelerate the building of the “Yueyang-Changde-Yiyang Triangle Urban Agglomeration” around the Dongting Lake, making it a new growth pole for Hunan Province. In addition to improving the Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan Triangle Urban Agglomeration in terms of size and competiveness, Hunan, covering an area of 210,000 km2, needs to develop several triangle urban agglomerations as its new growth poles. Relying on the Yangtze River Economic Zone, Hunan, for one thing, should improve the Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan urban agglomeration with international quality in terms of both size and competiveness, so as to create, together with the triangle urban agglomerations in the middle reaches of Yangtze River basis, the fourth pole for the economic growth of China; for the other, Hunan must improve the “Yueyang-Changde-Yiyang Triangle Urban Agglomeration around the Dongting Lake” in terms of size and competiveness, so as to build a new growth pole for Hunan; relying the Yangtze River Economic Zone and Dongting Lake, we should first improve the “Yueyang-Changde-Yiyang Triangle Urban Agglomeration” around the lake in terms of size and competiveness, and realize collaborative effect with Jingzhou and Xianning in Hubei. The population of permanent urban residents in Yueyang, Changde and Yiyang should be expanded to above 1 million, and on average, annual inflow of residents affected by the returning-farmland-to-lake project shall be around 10,000 in the next 10 years.

2. Build a group of port towns around the lake with unique characteristics. Five major port towns around Dongting Lake, e.g. Maocaojie town, Nanzhou town, Lujiao town, Huangmaozhou town and Zhuzikou town, and Dongshan and Wumenzha towns should be replanned and built into tourism-focused towns with a certain population size. The annual average inflow of residents affected by the project into these port towns will be over 1,000 in the next ten years.

3. Launch a new round of increasing the capacity and quality of counties around Dongting Lake. Particularly, we should carry out a new round of quality improvement projects in county-level cities, counties and districts, including Xiangyin, Miluo, Yueyang, Huarong, Linxiang, Nanxian, Anxiang, Jinshi, Lixian, Linli, Taoyuan, Dingcheng, Nanxian, Yuanjiang, Taojing and Heshan, in order to increase their abilities to allow for the resettlement of farmers nearby. The annual average inflow of residents affected by the project into the mentioned areas will be over 2,000.

4. Build several small triangle or group-type urban (town) agglomerations (belts, circles) within the “Yueyang-Changde-Yiyang Triangle Urban Agglomeration” to connect villages in the lake area, thereby realizing the integrated development of urban and rural areas. Such instances may include the “Xiangyin-Miluo-Quyuan Small Triangle” town-level agglomeration, the “Nanxian-Huarong-Anxiang Small Triangle” town-level agglomeration, the “Yiyang-Yuanjiang-Taojiang Urban Belt”, the “Jinshi-Lixian-Linli Urban Belt” and the “Yueyang County-Pingjiang County-Linxiang City Town Circle”. We should also work hard to increase the ability of such small triangle town groups (circles, belts) to allow for the resettlement of local farmers.

5. Plan and build the “Changsha-Yueyang Open Economic Corridor”. Dongting Lake area is the hinterland of Changsha, and Yueyang’s development is inseparable from the promoting, guidance and support by Changsha. Therefore, advancing the development of Changsha northwards along the Xiangjiang River as well as towards a group-type urban area requires the planning and construction of the “Changsha-Yueyang Open Economic Corridor”, thus creating conditions for the sub-provincial “Changsha-Yueyang New Economic Zone”. This is not only the need for Yueyang to integrate into the urban agglomeration in the middle reach of Yangtze River, but also the need to realize the new stage of urbanization in Hunan and integrate its economy into the Yangtze River Economic Zone. In order to build the Changsha-Yueyang New Economic Zone, we need to extend the Furong North Road northwards, connect and extend the highways along the Xiangjiang River and around the Dongting Lake in the downstream of Xiangyin northwards to Yueyang, regard the south-north Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway, national highways and normal railways as the axis, realize city-industry integration, and work hard to build a new Changsha-Yueyang economic corridor connecting the large inlet area of Yangtze River.

IV. Creating new industries with unique characteristics in the city-industry integration

Implement the returning-farmland-to-lake project and prioritize ecology; encourage residents affected by the project to resettle in towns and realize city-industry integration. Industries are the foundation for urbanization, and creating new industries with unique characteristics in the city-industry integration means more opportunities to start business and more job opportunities. We should implement the opening-up strategy, give full play to the geological advantage of the Dongting Lake area as a transition point in the Yangtze River Economic Zone, comprehensively advance the cross-regional open cooperation, transform the Dongting Lake area into a destination of investment, move faster to integrate Hunan into the Belt and Road Initiative, and build the Dongting Lake area into a bridgehead for Hunan to integrate into the Yangtze River Economic Zone. We should be more active in stepping up collaboration with the urban agglomerations in East China on economy, science and technology and cultural exchange; we should select and build some fully-prepared areas around the lake into “enclave agglomerations” to undertake the industrial transfer from the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, the Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan Urban Agglomeration and the foreign countries; we should further open up, and leverage various resources in and beyond China to promote the development of industries with unique characteristics in the Dongting Lake area.

1. Take the initiative to build a modern agriculture demonstration zone in the Dongting Lake area. This area used to be the provincial center where state-run farms and agricultural commodity bases congregate. We therefore have every reason to make it a modern, international agriculture demonstration zone. On the basis of favorable conditions for agricultural production and abundant cultivated land resources, the Dongting Lake Ecological Economic Zone should build a modern agriculture demonstration zone featuring mechanized, large-scale, specialized, ecological and international agriculture, focus on the ability to guarantee the supply of key agricultural products, and build a core zone for grain production and a predominant area for major agricultural products such as cotton, tea, oil plants, vegetables and aquatic products.

2. Build a logistic cluster with prominent advantages in water transport. With inland waterways of 12000 km, Hunan is ranked No.3 across the country; prefecture-level cities adjacent to rivers and open to navigation account for 90%; central towns with access to rivers and ferries account for 70%, and commodities from the Chenglingji Port can be transferred along the Dongting Lake to all port stations in the four rivers. Hunan should move faster to build a waterway transport network, enabling the Hunan section of Yangtze River to achieve the perennial navigation capacity of 5000 tons; transform the Chenglingji Port of Yueyang into a key shipping and logistics center in the middle reaches of Yangtze River; build the Xianing Port of Changsha a professional transport hub; improve the functions of key ports in Zhuzhou, Xiangtan, Changde, Hengyang and Yongzhou, enable the centralization of logistics in ports and wharfs, and encourage enterprises to develop river-sea-through ships. We should give full play to the strengths of Yueyang (e.g. 163km Yangtze River shoreline and four import ports), strength the role of Chenglingji Port as the transfer and distribution center in logistics transport across Hunan, integrate the wharf resources along the river and around the lake, construct a key node for Hunan to unleash its water transport capacity on the basis of Yangtze River and a key logistics center with access to the Yangtze River basin, and build a new port economy consisting of a port with container handling capacity of 1 million or more TEUs and cargo handling capacity of 100 million tons or more as well as an industrial park with annual revenue from main business of CNY 100 billion or more.

3. Build a tourism zone with the characteristics of the rivers and Dongting Lake. Give full play to the unique strengths related to history, culture, nature and folk custom in areas around the lake; build tourism cities, exquisite tourism routes, tourist attractions, tourism resorts and destinations of ecological tourism; vigorously develop the water-related tourism; build the core brand of “Pavilion-Island-Lake (Yueyang Pavilion, Junshan Island, Chishan Island, Dongting Lake, Liuye Lake)”; build the national ecotourism parks along the great river (Yangtze River) and the great lake (Dongting Lake) and the national lakeside resort; proactively participate into the Yangtze River international cruise project; realize the sharing of tourist resources, complementarity of strengths and interaction of visitor sources between cities along the rivers and around the lake; create the development model featuring “large region, big tourism, great cooperation and large market”; transform the cities along the rivers and around the lake into an international golden tourism zone.

4. Build a manufacturing cluster with unique characteristics in the Dongting Lake area. Firstly, vigorously develop a cluster of petrochemical refining industries along the Yangtze River shoreline of Yueyang, and plan and develop heavy chemical industries featuring large input, output and water consumption such as petrochemical, papermaking, coal power and nuclear power along the Yangtze River shoreline crossing the Dongting Lake, especially in the Yunxi District and Chenglingji demonstration zone of Yueyang; secondly, develop a cluster of consumer goods manufacturing industries, particularly the deep processing of agricultural products, in Yueyang, Changde and Yiyang cities; thirdly, actively align with the “Made in China 2025” and “Internet Plus”, and develop new industries such as intelligent agricultural machinery manufacturing, electronic information, Beidou navigation, yacht and ship making, bio-pharmacy and new materials; fourthly, work hard to make the traditional industries more clustered, high-end oriented and environment friendly.

        Link:  http://ldhn.rednet.cn/c/2017/05/08/4287310.htm


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