Defining Modern Life at Poyang Lake: An Ecological Civilization in the Making
By JIANG XINWEN
COORDINATING and unifying ecological protection and socio-economic development is the defining challenge facing the construction of the Poyang Lake Ecological Economic Zone. Covering 51,200 square kilometers and a population of 20 million, the zone will become a national, or even international, showcase for the comprehensive development of great lakes. Its destiny was determined on December 12, 2009 when the State Council approved the Plan for Poyang Lake Ecological Economic Zone. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Jiangxi Province was the first among various provinces to be approved a regional development plan of national strategy.
Why was Poyang Lake selected as the focus of a national development strategy that will, when realized, define modern living by the mid-21st century?
The "Mountain-River-Lake Project"
Sanqing Mountain, a World Natural Heritage site, makes a great anchor for an eco-industrial showcase.
Poyang Lake is the largest freshwater lake in China and an important regulating body for the Yangtze River. The annual volume of water from the lake to the river makes up 15.6 percent of the Yangtze's total runoff. Poyang Lake is the habitat of several endangered species, including 98 percent of the world's white cranes, 80 percent of white storks, 60 percent of white-naped cranes, and 50 percent of swan geese (Anser cygnoides). The cowfish living in Poyang Lake make up one fourth of the total number of cowfish in the Yangtze. The role it plays in protecting biodiversity is undisputed.
However, by the early 1980s, due to natural, social and economic factors, Jiangxi's forest area had shrunk sharply – from 52.7 percent in 1950 to 31.2 percent. Soil erosion was serious enough to silt up the lake, whose water surface shrank from 5,050 square kilometers in 1950 to 3,283 square kilometers.