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UPDATED: February 2, 2012
2.8 Mln Tons of Algae Removed from Taihu Lake

Great efforts have been made by governments at multiple levels to clean up Taihu Lake, located in the city of Wuxi in east China's Jiangsu Province, following a catastrophic outbreak of blue-green algae in summer 2007.

So far, 2.8 million tons of algae have been pumped out of the lake, according to a report in the Guangzhou Daily newspaper.

Over the last five years, a pilot project has been launched to divert water from the Yangtze River to Taihu, one of the country's largest lakes, in order to clean up the lake's algae contamination, the report said.

However, the lake has been difficult to clean up due to severe pollution from the factories and farms located in the cities around the lake. The lake is located in the center of the Yangtze River Delta, one of the country's most developed and industrialized regions.

"It may take less than 10 years to contaminate the lake, but it will take 30 years or more to make it clean," said an official from the lake's administration.

"I used to swim in the lake when I was a young child," recalled Wu Lihong, a 45-year-old farmer from the city of Yixing, which became known during the 2007 algae outbreak for its role as one of the main contributors of industrial pollution to the lake.

In the late 1980s, local fishermen found that their fish exuded an unusually bad odor due to pollution from the factories around the lake, Wu said, adding that the lake's water had turned "milky" in appearance around the same time.

In 1991, the local government launched the first phase of a program to curb pollution around the lake at a cost of 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion).

Beginning in 1987, vast amounts of sewage water were annually drained into the Yangtze River, Taihu Lake and other bodies of water in the area, most of which was not treated by local sewage plants. As of 2005, when the second phase of the local government's pollution cleanup was initiated, 80 percent of Taihu Lake had been severely contaminated.

The historic algae crisis came in early June 2007, when an overgrowth of blue-green algae forced the city government to halt water supplies for the 2 million residents of Wuxi.

In 2008, the government announced a new plan for cleaning up pollution around the lake at a total cost of 111.5 billion yuan ($18.17 billion).

However, pollution is not the only problem for the densely populated lake area, Li Guoying, vice minister of water resources, said in November 2011, according to the Guangzhou Daily report. The official said the area also faces severe water shortages.

The area's total water demand stands at 37 billion cubic meters annually, but the area is only capable of producing 17.7 billion cubic meters of water each year, just one-fifth of the national average, according to official figures.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2012)

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