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China’s shrinking ‘kidney’ lake lays bare growing climate challenges


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Temples on Louxingdun Island are often partially submerged below the surface of Poyang Lake, which is facing low water levels due to regional drought in Jiangxi province, China. (Photo by Reuters)

POYANG LAKE, CHINA: Usually surrounded by water in August, an island with pagodas in China Poyang Lake is now fully visible, demonstrating the strong impact of the prolonged drought and heat wave on an important part of the country’s irrigation infrastructure.
China’s largest freshwater lake, Poyang is dubbed the “kidney” because of its role in regulating the flow of water. Yangtze River In central Jiangxi province, floodwaters are usually wet in the summer and then recede abruptly in the dry autumn and winter.
This year, due to a record heat wave across the Yangtze River basin lasting more than 70 days, the lake has shrunk earlier than usual and is only a fifth of what it was a few months ago.
Locals say they have never seen anything like it.
“Last year there was water in the lake,” said Zhang Daxian, 57, who lives there. “This year I don’t know what happens. It’s so dry.”
The hydrological functions of Poyang have also been eroded over the years due to sand mining and the construction of the Three Gorges and other large-scale dams upstream.
Authorities have proposed building a large sluice gate to give more control over water flows – a move criticized by green groups.
Zhang, a Buddhist, is paid 1,000 yuan (US$146) a month by the local government to clean up on the island, known as Luoxing Pier, when the water level drops, a job usually required for half a year. .
“This year has been dry for … almost two months. The water should have receded in mid-September, but this year … it dried up in mid-July,” he said.
On Wednesday, residents were able to walk comfortably across the lake’s cracked and grilled flats on Wednesday, stomping on dead mussels and fish – although some strode.
“It’s just climate change“Zhang, a 51-year-old who used to work for the local fisheries management agency.” It’s normal.”
Fishing was banned on Poyang Lake in 2020.
The shrinkage has also affected the transportation and supply of drinking water to nearby communities. Authorities have released water from the Three Gorges and Danjiangkou reservoirs to alleviate shortages downstream, state broadcaster CCTV said on Tuesday.
Du Lei, an engineer with the remote sensing center of the Ministry of Natural Resources, told CCTV that the lake was still receding and some of its tributaries had completely dried up.
“The entire northern part of the lake is more like a river because the surface of the lake is shrinking,” he said.

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