Huai River’s algal blooms may affect quality of China’s water transfer project

The Huai River, one of China's largest, is likely to encounter algal blooms, posing a major ecological threat and potentially harming the quality of water transported along the controversial south-north water transfer project
<p>(Iamge by&nbsp;霍岱珊)&nbsp;</p>

(Iamge by 霍岱珊) 

Huo Daishan of environmental group Huai River Warriors says it is very likely the Huai River will suffer an algal bloom this year, with disastrous consequences for aquaculture on Hongze Lake.
Early-warning systems that span administrative boundaries are needed to break down bureaucratic barriers across provinces and between the upstream and downstream sections of the river, Daishan adds.
"The existing system is localised, with governments upstream and downstream managing their own patches. Those boundaries between provinces and the upstream and downstream sections of the river need to be removed, with a more active approach taken to responding to potential algal blooms,” he adds.
Hongze Lake plays an important role in regulating flow on the eastern route of the south-north water transfer project. Algal pollution here would affect water quality along that entire section. 
The US$80 billion scheme, which started delivering water to Beijing late last year, aims to bring water from the south of the country to the north in order to alleviate water shortages in arid provinces. 

In 2014 an algal bloom on the river didn’t attract much attention from government, but Huo described over 200 kilometers of the river, from Zhoukou in Henan to Fuyang in Anhui, as having been covered in algae. That algae has now flowed into Hongze Lake. 

This was the first algal bloom Huo has seen on this river: “Swimmers dived in and came out looking like PLA soldiers,” he said, referring to the coating of algae the swimmers acquire and its similarity to the green uniforms worn by the People’s Liberation Army. 

He added: “I regard the algae as a type of AIDS in the water – once it’s broken out it’s hard to get rid of or treat. They’ve been trying to deal with the problem at Taihu and Dianchi for over 20 years, and they’re still at it…”
Image by Huo Daishan

Huo, originally a photojournalist known for exposing local government lies about pollution on the Huai River, is the founder of environmental group Huai River Warriors.

Huo said an algal bloom on the Huai River this year is very likely – the 2014 outbreak wasn’t dealt with, the algae just sank to the bottom and hibernated when the weather turned cold.

When spring arrives and temperatures rises the entire length of the Huai River will be affected, with disastrous consequences for aquaculture on Hongze Lake. 

Huo has contacted local authorities, calling for an early-warning system covering the entire river to be established, but has received no response.