After 300 years, the water returns
Water has reappeared in a lake that had been dried up for about 300 years in the city of Dunhuang, northwest China’s Gansu Province, thanks to a local water conservancy project.
Haraqi Lake, at the end of the Shule River, now covers a water area of 5 square kilometers, preventing the neighboring Kumtag Desert from invading eastward and serving as an ecological barrier, local authorities said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the recovery of the lake also plays an active role in the restoration of local biodiversity, said Sun Zhicheng, an official of the Dunhuang West Lake National Nature Reserve Administration.
Dunhuang West Lake National Nature Reserve was first established in 1992 and was upgraded as a national nature reserve in 2003.
It aims to prevent the Kumtag Desert from moving eastward and help maintain the local biodiversity in a bid to provide a suitable environment for endangered animals.
The recovered Haraqi Lake is located at the junction of the Kumtag Desert and the Dunhuang West Lake National Nature Reserve. Now, with rose willows and reeds growing on the eastern bank, Haraqi Lake is also a habitat for aquatic birds.
Sun said the Shule River has shrunk to a quarter of its size since the Tang Dynasty (618-907) due to people’s migration and environmental changes. The river dried up completely along with Haraqi Lake during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Sun recalled that he only found desertified land at the site of the lake in 2006.
In 2011, the State Council approved a plan for water conservation and environmental protection in Dunhuang to solve the problems of supply and demand for water resources and the continuously deteriorating regional environment.
In 2017, the restoration of the Shule River and Danghe River, which were included in the plan, were completed.
Water returned to Haraqi Lake accidentally in 2017 and 2018. With the continuous replenishment of water flow and increased rainfall, Haraqi Lake has maintained a relatively stable water area for five months this year, Sun said.
So far, more than 20 wild species have been found around the lake.
“We even came across an endangered wild camel there last year, which was very rare,” Sun said.
In the autumn of 2016, another lake that had dried up for nearly 60 years in Dunhuang reappeared. Sun also attributed this to the restoration of the Shule and Danghe rivers.
Dunhuang is home to the Mogao Grottoes, a world heritage site, boasting thousand-year-old Buddhist sculptures and paintings. Desertification poses a constant threat to its cultural heritage.