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Hangzhou goes all out to host green Asian Games

By XING WEN in Hangzhou | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-09-22 08:05
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Improvements made to environment in city and surrounding countryside

Xu Manshan, 61, who has spent half his life working in water conservancy, grew up on the picturesque Dongzhou Island, which lies on the Fuchun River in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

The island used to be an isolated speck in the middle of the river, accessible only by a handful of ferry crossings. This lack of convenient transportation links plunged it into economic hardship.

"Back then, every household on the island relied on farming for a living, but getting essential supplies such as grain and fertilizer required arduous journeys in small wooden boats," Xu said. "People listened for a rooster's crow before venturing outdoors during the day, while relying on lanterns to guide them home at night. It was quite a hassle."

In 1976, the residents decided to build two dams at either end of the island to connect it to the river banks.

"Men, women and children pitched in to help build the dams. I was in junior high school at the time, and as soon as school ended, I rushed to join the labor force. We carried massive stones on our shoulders and placed them into the river," Xu said.

The dams enclosed nearly 133 hectares of an inner lake by harnessing part of the Fuchun River's tributary, allowing the islanders to start fish farming, revamp low-lying areas and boost grain production. The island's economy began to pick up.

Building the dams triggered Xu's interest in water conservancy and further developing his home island.

In 1979, he entered university, where he studied water conservancy, but as time passed by, the impact of the dams emerged.

First, they obstructed water in the tributary, the Beizhi River, causing it to flow exclusively from the southern side of Dongzhou Island, thus putting pressure on flood control measures.

Second, the ecological impact was evident, as the dams turned a 7.5-kilometer stretch of the river downstream into stagnant water, leading to sedimentation and deteriorating water quality.

With the Fuyang Water Sports Centre due to be constructed on the southern bank of the Beizhi River to host rowing, kayaking and other water sports during the upcoming Asian Games, the authorities in Hangzhou launched a rehabilitation project on the river to address these issues by dismantling the dam and constructing water gates. Xu was chosen to head the project.

The Asian Games are scheduled to open in Hangzhou on Saturday evening.

"By removing the upstream and downstream dams and converting 'dead water' into 'live water,' in addition to dredging a 12-kilometer river channel, we restored the waterway's flood-carrying capacity. We also installed water gates and locks upstream and downstream, significantly improving the river's self-purification and navigational abilities," Xu said.

Dongzhou Island, which has gradually regained its ecological vitality, is providing vital support for the Asian Games.

"My happiest childhood memories are of swimming in the river, catching fish and shrimp, and searching for clams. After the project was completed, I felt as though the Dongzhou Island of my cherished childhood had returned, complete with its pristine landscapes and serene waters," Xu said.

Preparations for the Hangzhou Asian Games have not only transformed Xu's hometown, but also improved the environment in the city and surrounding countryside. Moreover, the commitment to "going green" has been ingrained in every aspect of constructing venues for the Games.

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