Fri Apr 28, 2:41 PM ET
ANXIN, China (AFP) - When a slick of pollution in north China's biggest freshwater lake left fish farms decimated in early March, locals and environmentalists were little surprised.
Large-scale fish deaths have occurred regularly since the 1980s as excessive amounts of untreated industrial waste water and raw sewage, coupled with drought and constantly falling water levels, have left Baiyangdian Lake in northern China's Hebei province choking for its life.
"When we were kids we used to drink the water straight from the lake," Liu Zhanbing, 41, a fish farmer who has lived his entire life on the banks of the lake in Dazhangzhuang village, told AFP.
"Now we can't even cook with it. We have to use well water for our drinking water."
This year's fish kill came after upstream reservoirs of waste water in the Baoding city region, home to about 10 million people, emptied their putrid sludge into streams and rivers that run into the lake, state media said.
The pollutants, full of phosphorous and nitrogen, sapped the oxygen out of the blackish green water and when the frozen lake thawed, farmers found their suffocated fish floating to the top.
"Farmers who didn't harvest their fish in October, lost their entire crop," Liu said. "They were hoping that the fish would grow bigger over the winter and then they would be able to get better prices this spring."
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