For more than 30 years, local residents have worked hard to restore the ecological balance of Dianchi Lake in Yunnan.
At 5 am, on the south bank of Dianchi Lake, with the sky still dark, sexagenarian fisherman, Zhang Kaidi, grabs a quick bite in the kitchen before hurrying to the wharf with his brother-in-law, Li Peiguang, in tow.
After a full day's toil, when the night begins to cloak the lake in darkness, the fully-laden fishing boats slowly make their way back to dock. After selling the day's catch to the cooperatives in the village, Zhang hurries home with a small bag of shrimp which will be the main course for the dinner he'll share with his wife.
On Oct 16, a 30-day open season began on Dianchi Lake in Yunnan. In order to protect the lake and reduce emissions, local fishermen have stopped using oil-powered motor boats to go out to fish, instead reverting back to traditional three-masted sailing boats. Unlike the last two years, this season, only the silverfish and shrimp are allowed to be harvested.
"It's better to catch less fish than to destroy the ecology of Dianchi Lake," Zhang says, sagely. "Let the fish grow up, don't worry."
It has been a gradual road to recovery for the lake, but residents now realize its fragility and the need for it to be protected.
In the past, local residents knew nothing of environmental protection. No one ever thought that the water would become so polluted, and they often dumped their household waste into the small ditches that spilled into the lake.
Zhang recalls the end of the 1980s, "It was so sad. A lot of dead fish were washed ashore, and you can imagine the smell of the lake," he says.
Ever since, the fishermen have been looking forward to seeing their mother lake become clear again. After more than 30 years of continuous treatment, the water quality of Dianchi has continued to improve, and the water quality in the first half of 2019 maintained a Class IV rating. "We were born here and grew up here. The lake is our home. I hope our home continues to get better and better," Zhang says.