The scenery of Yundang Lagoon in Xiamen (SUDESHNA SARKAR)
Fu Xunyi’s love story could be called a modern-day version of the Beauty and the Beast story. Only, in his case, his love happens to be a lagoon.
Fu grew up by the side of the Yundang Lagoon in Xiamen, which is a symbol of the city’s rise, fall and rejuvenation. Once a port, Yundang was filled up in the 1970s and reduced to a lake as Xiamen sought to gain more land for agriculture to feed its growing population.
The lake soon became a place for residents to throw their garbage and the nearby factories to discharge their waste, becoming a stinking dead lake where refuse floated and the sluggish water stood still. It had become an appalling beast.
In the 1980s, rising complaints from residents forced the local government to start cleaning up the lake, beautify its surroundings and build sluice gates that would protect Xiamen against floods caused by typhoons.
Fu Xunyi (SUDESHNA SARKAR)
Fu, an engineer at the Yundang Lagoon Management Center, has spent 20 years of his career working to save and beautify the lake. “My work and life is all about Yundang Lake,” the 40-year-old said.
Today, the lagoon’s waters has been cleaned to meet one of the highest national standards, nearly 2 km of mangrove forests have been grown along its bank, and fishes have returned to the clean waters. Besides the egret, Xiamen’s signature bird, there are nearly 70 other species in the forest, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.
The ecological restoration has been acknowledged as a model restoration work by the United Nations Development Programme. Fu and the other officials’ aspiration is that one day, it would be recognized as a national ecological system.
“When I was a child, though I lived next to the lake, we went to Gulangyu Island for our holidays because nobody could swim in that polluted water,” Fu said. “But today, I take my two children to the lake. I have witnessed the entire change.”
(Reporting from Xiamen)
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