‘A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox’ from The Pirates of Penzance could reflect the reality that is Chao Lake in Anhui, China.
Beside its vast polluted waters (Chao Lake is the 4th largest fresh water lake in China) is being constructed New Binhu (meaning ‘nearby the lake’), an ultra-modern city of apartment blocks maybe for about 2 million people and part of the greater city of Hefei in Anhui.
The government has foreseen the needs of the people and created a greenway around the edge of the lake in the environs of the city. This comprises a modern road leading to the many attractions of nature and man. The attractions of man include a museum recording the point nearby where Mao’s Peoples’ Liberation Army crossed the Yangtze in 1949 and a 99 m grand pentagonal tower that looks like a 5 pointed star from the sky. The long road near the lake is fenced with an architecturally pleasing low iron fence painted in blue and white with a pedestal every 3 metres having a flower box on top – all pristine and marvelously maintained.
In other areas there are wetlands between the road and the lake with plank walkways constructed for visitors. And the paradox is here. The first thing you notice on Chao Lake is a sea of colour, no not pollution, but magnificent fields of water plants. There are great areas of pale yellow water lilies, large perfect pink lotus, bright yellow water iris, reeds, and very tall red and orange lilies – all feeding with great pleasure on the fertilizer polluted lake, and all doing their job to create beauty while eliminating pollution – nature’s Energitismo. The life of the lake is not limited to water plants. Fish live and now thrive since fishing was banned.
The question is, will the beauty survive once the pollution in Chao Lake is eliminated?
Another wonder of the area is a forest park built as only an eastern Asian native could. Every aspect of a forest has been included. There are three levels of vegetation with tall deciduous trees being underpinned by evergreen medium firs, bushes and palms, and a natural wetlands undergrowth.
Artificial lakes are now saturated with water flowers, particularly lotus and the locale is a favourite for brides. There are several ways you can visit the forest, by foot, by eco-minibus, by canal boat, or by, what was a first to me, a four seated cycle – a wheeled version of the water pedalo, that has just one challenge – ensuring that the two front cyclists share the same intention for direction.
In summer this area of China is a Chinese steam bath where liquefaction of the flesh seems inevitable, so the shade is a welcome relief. Rolling slowly on the well-structured paths beneath banks of tall trees, you have just two insect partners, thousands of harmless low-flying dragon flies, witnessing the approach of rain, and choruses of cicadas, swelling to a cacophony before fading away. You will of course not notice any ordinary flies or mosquitoes, there are none.
The Chinese passion for cleanliness is not missed here. While earlier in our visit I was surprised to find one piece of litter to deposit in one of the plethora of recycling bins, here in the forest park everything is spotless – with just one more paradox – diligent workers sweeping the leaves from the paths as other fluttering foliage quickly replace them.
There is something right that the Chinese are doing at the city and community level. Maybe we can learn even from Chao Lake.