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What if Beijing's rivers ran clear?

Beijing's waterways suffer from severe pollution. But even if they did not, the residents of the capital might present an even greater threat, writes Lu

Dongting.

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At some of Beijing's beauty spots, you can still find fresh, clear water flowing from underground springs: water which is eagerly sought by city residents, who fill up plastic containers to drink or to use in their cooking.

 

This phenomenon can be seen at many of Beijing's best-known sites, including Badachu Park and the Xiangshan Botanical Gardens. Local authorities have put up signs prohibiting unauthorised water collection, but to no effect.

Avid anglers

The capital’s anglers are even more numerous. They fill up the train at six in the morning from Beijing South Station, carrying a jumble of fishing rods, stools and nets, all heading for a series of reservoirs on the Yongding River.

These fisherfolk, of all ages and backgrounds, often know each other from the time they spend sitting around Beijing's lakes, rivers and canals. Visit any body of water in Beijing, and you will see them holding out their fishing rods hopefully.

And they really do sit around any body of water: most are stagnant, poisoned or lifeless. But nevertheless, the eager anglers still try their luck.

I have always wondered why they go fishing: is it to eat? Hardly. Is it a hobby? Unlikely: China has little tradition of catching fish with a line. So what keeps them coming back? Is it just something to do?

There are those who prefer to use nets to catch their fish. As soon as the water level is low enough, they roll up their trousers, wade in and set their nets – or anything else they can use to catch fish. One group prefers to electrocute its prey, riding around on motorbikes and stopping here and there to dip their equipment in the water and scoop up the stunned fish.  

In February, the Beijing Water Authority announced that rate of water treatment had reached 90%, meaning the target for the Olympics had been attained a year in advance. But take a look and you will find that Beijing’s waterways are still plagued by low water levels, unclean water and, further downstream, a lack of surviving wetlands. And despite this, there are still hordes of anglers out on the water.

Determined bathers

Beijing is also home to a group of outdoor swimmers that can be found in and around the city’s lakes.

One of these lakes is Yuyuantan, in west central Beijing. This lake links up with Kunming Lake in the city’s northwest. In the 1960s, a canal was built to bring water from the Miyun Reservoir to Kunming Lake. Since some of Beijing's waterworks were located beside Yuyuantan, an extra canal was built to link the two bodies of water.

The water quality in Yuyuantan is above average, making it a popular destination for bathers. The park authorities have erected signs beside certain spots, warning them that since 1996, almost 100 people have died as a result of swimming in the lake. But swimmers still laugh and chat next to the sign – even bringing buckets of water from home to wash in after their swim.

Shichahai is a network of six lakes that stretches from the central government complex at Zhongnanhai through Beihai Park to Qianhai, Houhai and peaceful Xihai. The lakes took shape during the Yuan Dynasty and are closely linked with the history of the capital. The development of an entertainment industry around Qianhai and Houhai led to greater efforts to improve water quality; these include pollution control and bringing in clean water from the Chang River, which connects to Yuyuantan and Kunming Lake. The Shichahai bathers are there all year round; even the occasional deaths have not discouraged them.

Swimmers are also found at other locations in Beijing, even where the water quality is very poor. It is as if nothing can stop them – not the weather, the dirty water or the mystified stares of passers by.

However, the state of Beijing’s water does put off most of the capital’s residents from swimming. What would the result be if the water ran clear, if all of Beijing's 20 million residents decided to take up swimming in the waters of the city?

Fish food

Beijing's water pollution has given rise to a new industry: catching and farming water fleas. These are popular as food for pet fish; anyone living near a dirty river – the fleas are drawn to the poor sanitation – can easily bag enough to keep their goldfish happy. Professional fish breeders will don waders and spend a whole day collecting fleas.

Liangshui River is a natural river that runs from Beijing’s northwest to southeast, but in recent years it has become an important route for getting polluted water out of the city. Once it passes a water treatment plant at the city’s fourth ring road, untreated water enters the river, and it becomes steadily filthier. The water fleas are caught in this water, stored in riverside pools and sold on to wholesalers, who sell them to retailers in the city’s fish markets.

If Beijing's rivers were cleaned up, this industry would die.

And if Beijing's waterways really became clean, pure and full of life, what damage would the people do? Everyone is attracted to water, it revitalises the soul just as drinking it sustains our bodies. This is no crime, but if the capital’s water is ever cleaned up, perhaps the residents will have to restrain their love of water, or at least find another way to express it. Else it will not stay clean for long.
 

Lu Dongting is a Beijing-based reporter.

Homepage photo by Doncorleon.

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评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

真正的问题

有些观点很有趣,但是真正的问题是:是什么在驱使着这些城市的垂钓者?比如说?

Genuine question

Some really amusing points here, and genuine questions: what does drive the urban anglers, for instance?

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

回答与提问

假如北京的水清纯了,这个工业也就要灭亡了。

你的观点很有趣,但是你能不能告诉我渔场的产鱼量有多大,钓鱼迷们能钓的鱼又有多少?

此外,我想那些在河里钓鱼的人普遍来说比较穷或者不富裕。而那些从渔场买鱼的人想来是来自各个社会群体,但都不穷。

所以,在我看来,减少污染的确会影响到渔场,但只是一点点,至少是不会让他们消亡的。

对那些游泳的人就另当别论了。在外国,我们禁止在某些河流或湖泊里游泳。警方可以对游泳者处以严厉的刑罚。

马努

Response and questions

>If Beijing's rivers were cleaned up, this >industry would die.

Your idea is interesting, but can you tell me what is the amount of fishes produced by fish farming, and what is the amount of fishes that the anglers can fish in the rivers ?

Moreover, I think that anglers who fish in the rivers are generally poor or not so rich. Considering that those people who buy fish from fish farms are from all social categories but not not poor.

So I think that to reduce pollution in the Beijing rivers would indeed affect fish farms, but just a little, but at least it would not lead to the die of them.

For the bathers, it is another problem.
In foreign countries, we forbid bathers to have bath in some lakes or rivers, and those who bath are exposed to severe penalties by the police.

Manu

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

钓鱼不是因为贫穷

中国城市,不仅仅是北京,在城市河道里钓鱼、捕鱼的人都不是因为贫穷。他们捕捉到的鱼也无法销售,甚至无法满足个人的食用。完全是一个为钓鱼而钓鱼的行为。因为要“休闲”,恶劣的环境也不足以满足休闲的需求。
为什么要为钓鱼而钓鱼?这是我多年来一直在琢磨的问题。随着我对城市水系的考察增多,我想最近我对这个问题有了个小答案,那就是人们需要自然界。城市是生态失衡的地方,每个人平均获得的“生态量”非常稀少。对于那些习惯于自然生态中浸泡的人来说,越来越人工化的环境,是无法让人忍受的。这从另一个侧面证明,人们是多么需要美好自然。如果没有了自然,人,活不下去。 吕洞庭

Fishing isn't out of poverty

In Chinese cities, not only Beijing, people don't fish and catch fishes in the rivers out of poverty. The fishes they catch can't be sold commercially. The fishes even won't be enough to feed themselves. It is totally a fishing-for-fishing's-sake behavior. It is because they want to "relax", although the environment is too bad to meet their needs for relaxing.

Why fishing for fishing's sake? This is something I've been pondering over for many years. With my increasing investigation in the water system of cities, I think I arrived at a small conclusion recently, that is, people need nature. Cities are places with imbalanced ecosystem, meaning that per capita "eco-mass" is extremely scarce. For people who are used to indulge themselved in nature, it would be unbearable to find the environment becoming man-made day by day. This has proved that people need the beauty of nature. People cannot live without nature.

Lu Dongting

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

与观念有关

钓鱼也好,野泳也罢,他们未必是受利益的驱使,这都是国人多年以来的生活习惯。靠山吃山,靠水吃水,要改变这个局面,根上还是在观念和意识。
a水

About the way of thinking

Fishing, or bathing, they may not be driven by economic interests. They are habits formed throughout the years. Living on the mountains, live off the mountain. Living by the water, live off the water. (People make use of local resources.) In order to make a difference, fundamentally (we should start from) the way of thinking and awareness.

a Shui

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

治水是为了更好的亲水

诚然,如上所说,人们需要自然界.我在想,难道我们的治水单单是为了治水吗?治水是为了什么?
从某个方面说,人们的亲水性正是体现了治水的重要性;而治水也显示出人们对自然回归的渴望.所以我想说:治水是为了更好的亲水.我们不该反对人们的亲水特性.

Cleaning up waterways for a better love of water

Indeed, as stated above, people need nature. I'm wondering, are we cleaning up the waterways solely for the sake of cleaning up? What do we clean it for? In a way, people's love of water is exactly the reason behind the importance of cleaning up; and cleaning up also reflects people's urge to go back to nature. Therefore, what I want to say is, we are cleaning up waterways for a better love of water. We shouldn't go against people's nature of loving water.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

人当然要亲水,可是城市人,难

以后最大的环保问题就是人的问题。有很多行为未必污染环境,只是生态伤害。我不同意你如此功利的说法。人应该对自然负责。这种负责不仅仅是为了利用。治水是为了对得起自然界,顺便让人的亲水本能得到释放。
但是,城市人是可怜的,由于人口过度密集,任何自然的东西都经不起频繁的扰动,因此。城市人必须压抑、克制自己身上的亲水本能。这是城市人必须要付出的代价。当然,他可以利用节假日,到其他能够承受其伤害的地方亲水。

People surely should love water, but for city residents, it is difficult.

The biggest environmental problem tomorrow would be a people problem. Many behaviors do not necessarily pollute the environment, but do harm to the ecosystem. I'm not agree with your utilitarian way of presentation. People should take ownership of preserving nature, which should be done for reasons more than taking advantage of its resources. Cleaning up waterways is for not feeling guilty in front of nature, and for the release of our loves of water as well. However, city dwellers are pathetic for being part of a too densely populated crowd. Nothing in nature can stand constant disturbances. Therefore, city residents have to oppress and subjugate their loves towards water. This is what must be paid for living in cities. Of course, they can release the love by traveling in holidays to other places, where the damages their love causes is tolerable.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

观点新颖

观点新颖,值得拜读。

original statement

This article has innovative ideas!
It's well worth reading.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

感触

水环境污染当然要治理,不能说因为河水的清洁会引起更大的污染而有所犹豫。为了保持河道的更加清洁,对广大人民进行环保教育才是遏制水污染的最重要途径。

大雁

sentiment

Polluted water must be cleaned up, of course. We cannot hesitate just because that cleaning water leads to more pollution. In order to maintain and improve the cleanness of the waterways, educating the public would be the fundamental way of stopping water pollution.

Da Yan

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

本文英文和中文对照翻译的疑惑

我是对照中文翻译来读英文文章的,觉得英文文章和中文翻译的有许多差别,英文里没有的,中文里都翻译出来了。是我英文不行,还是作者没有把中文中的翻译出来?

Wendy

Question to the content of English-Chinese Translation

I read the English article while referring the Chinese version, and I feel there are many discrepancies between these two versions. Something that does not exist in the English version actually appears in the Chinese one. Was the original article not completely translated? By Wendy

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

好像你搞反了

文章应当是中文写的,翻译成了英文。也许文章的整体意思是差不多的?

山民

Seems you have misunderstood

The article ought to have been written in Chinese, and was then translated into English. Could it be that the overall meaning of the article was not really carried across in the translation? Shanming