Li Guozhong, a 56-year-old man who has been a fisherman for half of his life, now takes great pleasure in protecting the ecological environment of the lake he used to fish in.
Li Guozhong patrols Hengshui Lake, a national nature reserve in Hengshui city, north China's Hebei Province. (Photo/China Media Group)
By 9 a.m. everyday, Li has already finished walking along the 7 kilometer-long bank of Hengshui Lake, a national nature reserve in Hengshui city, north China's Hebei Province. He walks along the bank of the river at least twice a day to observe what's happening on the surface of the water.
After observing the lake on land, Li paddles a boat to patrol the lake. He scrutinizes the lake area while paddling his boat. During the patrol, he rescues birds accidentally trapped in such devices as fishing nets and fish cages.
"We make patrols to investigate vegetation and birds in the area, because birds build their nests in plants and all the reeds and soil here are their home. We are irrigating the beauty of the natural environment with our sweat," Li said.
Li lives near Hengshui Lake. He said that as he walks along the lake bank to patrol the lake in the rays of the rising sun and amid the happy songs of various species of birds, he feels more energetic than at any other time of the day.
Birds fly over Hengshui Lake, a national nature reserve in Hengshui city, north China's Hebei Province. (Photo/China Media Group)
Before joining the team of volunteer river patrollers, Li was one of the local fishermen who relied on the Hengshui Lake for a living. By catching fish by various methods, including using fishing nets and electric devices, and engaging in pen culture, they expected to lead a better life.
For a long time, there were often hundreds of fishing boats on Hengshui Lake, which is considered "the most beautiful wetlands" in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
But as time went on, Li and his fellow fishermen found it more and more difficult to increase their income by fishing in the lake, as the lake water got muddy and there were fewer fish in the lake, and even the number of birds inhabiting the lake area declined significantly.
The environmental degradation made Li start thinking about what he could do to help improve the situation of the lake.
Li Guozhong records information about Hengshui Lake, a national nature reserve in Hengshui city, north China's Hebei Province, after patrolling the lake area. (Photo/China Media Group)
In 2017, when the comprehensive law enforcement bureau of the Lakeside New Area, by which the Hengshui Lake is administered, recruited volunteer patrollers for the lake, Li signed up without hesitation.
Over the past six years, he has recorded relevant information about his patrol everyday, and witnessed how the water quality of the lake was raised from below Grade V in China's five-tier water quality system to Grade III as the lake ecosystem improves daily.
As the water became clear, the populations of fish and shrimp in the lake have also grown, and more and more birds have been attracted to the area.
Li Guozhong paddles his boat to patrol Hengshui Lake, a national nature reserve in Hengshui city, north China's Hebei Province. (Photo/China Media Group)
Today, Hengshui Lake is not only inhabited by Baer's pochard, a globally endangered species under national first-class protection in China, but also flocks of herons and egrets. A total of 333 species of birds and 757 species of insects have been spotted in the lake area, thanks to the local government's efforts to enhance protection for the lake as well as the hard work of selfless lake patrollers like Li.
Although the task of patrolling the lake is lonely and time-consuming, Li said he will stick to it and will never give up.
"We should protect our lucid waters and blue skies to let the future generations enjoy the beautiful environment we try to preserve. I will tell everything I know about environmental protection to my family and children, and encourage everyone I know to jointly protect the Hengshui Lake," Li said.
Photo shows a garden expo park near Hengshui Lake, a national nature reserve in Hengshui city, north China's Hebei Province. (Photo/China Media Group)