From Xiang to Yangtze, Watchers of the Chinese Rivers


xiang river waterkeeper 2017 Jan. group pic of patrollers

By Cheng Sun, Xiang River Waterkeeper

2,295 years ago, the patriotic poet Yuan Qu committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River after being unfairly accused of treason. People rushed to search for his body but did so in vain. Fearing the body might be eaten by fish, they tossed rice balls into the river hoping the fish would feed on the rice instead of the poet’s body. To memorialize Yuan Qu’s death, people set May 5 in the lunar calendar to be the Dragon Boat Festival, one of China’s most important celebrations.

This story took place in my hometown of Hunan. When I first heard it, I was incredibly touched, not only by Qu’s spirit, but by everything that came to play: the respect for his life even after his death, the harmony between humans and nature, and the river, that was once swimmable, fishable, and drinkable.

You may not know where Hunan is, but if you are using an iPhone, there is a 50 percent chance that your phone screen was manufactured in Hunan by a local company called Lansi Technology. This is a perfect example of globalization — you are connected to a region that you might know nothing about through your bedding, office supplies, and personal items.

As a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Xiang River Waterkeeper shares a global vision of protecting our waters. Water blurs the boundaries of countries and regions and everywhere in the world, humans share the same challenge of environmental protection.

Facing increasingly severe water pollution, Xiang River Waterkeeper started a program in 2011 called “River Watcher,” hoping to get locals engaged with protecting their local waters. We promoted the program through newspapers and internet campaigns and signed up 60 people to be our first group of volunteers.

2012 water sampling at ninxian (年绿色潇湘工作人员在宁乡沩水) (1)

Water quality sampling at Ninxian.

River Watcher volunteers routinely monitor discharge points along the river and collect and test water samples. If excessive pollutants are detected, they promptly turn the case into their municipal environmental protection agencies and publish their observations on social media. The program had a successful start, submitting over 20 cases to local agencies its first year.

Xiang River Waterkeeper also holds events in the community to promote river knowledge and introduce as many people as possible to the wonders of nature. By participating in these events and getting to know their river, people realize the importance of protecting the environment and join our network of water advocates. The Xiang River Waterkeeper volunteer community has greatly expanded since starting these programs and we have become increasingly effective in our efforts.

2016 May, Water Relay Race activity_WKO's volunteer teaching her students about river patrol

A Xiang River Waterkeeper volunteer teaching her students about river patrol.

We joined Waterkeeper Alliance in 2014, which connected us to like-minded organizations all over the world dedicated to water protection. That same year, we expanded our model to three other river branches in Hunan, building up an even larger network of 150 volunteers.

While you are reading this, more than 500 River Watchers are safeguarding our rivers in 62 counties and cities in Hunan. In 2016, they identified and reported 151 instances of pollution, solved 98 cases, and have published 2500 monitoring tweets (on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter).

In April 2017, we established the River Watcher Center with support from Alibaba Trust with the hope of finding one million people to protect our rivers. We have found that where there is a river, there are people who care and will contribute their time to better our environment.

From Xiang to Yangtze, from Hunan to the whole of China, we have made incredible progress over the past five years. We hope to partner with all Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates around the world to set up and support local volunteer networks to protect our rivers, in the hopes that every river can return to being swimmable, fishable, and drinkable.

 

守望中国的河流——从湘江走向长江

作者: 孙成,潇湘护水者

公元前278年的今天,一位叫做屈原的爱国诗人在汨罗江投河自尽。当地百姓得知这个消息后,一起划着船去寻找他的遗体却没有找到,但又担心他的尸体会被鱼吃掉,所以大家带了很多的米团投入江中,希望鱼吃饱之后不会去碰屈原的尸体。后人为了纪念这一天,将每年的五月初五定为了端午节——中国最重要的节日之一。

这个故事就发生在我的家乡湖南。小时候我第一次听说这个故事,打动我的不光是诗人伟大的爱国精神,还有故事发生的背景,中国古人对生命的敬畏,与自然之间和谐的关系,以及故事里那条可游、可渔、可饮的河。

听完这个故事,你也许还是不知道湖南在哪里。但如果你使用的是Iphone,你的手机屏就有超过一半的概率产至湖南的一家企业——蓝思科技。

这就是全球化的一个缩影。在你没有意识到的情况下,湖南已经和你的生活紧密联系在了一起,出现在你的床头、你的办公桌上、你的口袋里。就像我们虽然远隔重洋,却都是护水者联盟的一员,共享着相同的价值观。地域和国家的界限已经不再那样重要,水资源保护已经成为了人类共同的挑战。

为了应对越来越严重的水污染问题。2011年,我们启动了一个叫做“湘江守望者”的项目,希望沿着湘江找到更多本地居民去保护本地的河流。我们在报纸上登发广告,在网络上发布消息,最后找到了60多个人愿意和我们一起试试。

2012 water sampling at ninxian (年绿色潇湘工作人员在宁乡沩水) (1)

年绿色潇湘工作人员在宁乡沩水

他们定期来到河边的排污口进行巡查,收集和检测水样,一旦发现问题就会第一时间举报给当地的环保部门同时在社交媒体上进行发布。仅2011年,这60多个人推动当地环保局处理了20多起水污染案例,这是一个令人欣喜的开始。

他们还会在社区里举办各种各样的活动,宣传河流保护的知识,让更多人重新认识我们身边的河流,参与到河流保护的行动中来。就这样,这个护水者的群体开始不断壮大,工作也越来越活跃。

2016 May, Water Relay Race activity_WKO's volunteer teaching her students about river patrol

2014年,我们加入了 Waterkeeper Alliance,和全世界的护水者团体连接在了一起。也是在这一年,我们把我们在湘江上的工作模式复制到了湖南的其他三条主要河流,建立了一个更大规模的河流守望者网络,志愿者的规模达到了150人左右。

此刻,分布于湖南62个县市,超过500位河流守望者,正守护着湖南的河流。2016年,他们发现并跟进污染案例151起,解决98起,发布日常环境监测数据超过2500条。

2017年4月,我们和阿里巴巴公益基金会一起,成立了河流守望者中心,希望在未来的三年里,在长江流域找到100万人来守护我们的河流。我们的梦想是,有河流的地方就有守望者。

从湘江到长江,从湖南到全中国,这是过去五年我们的故事。我们希望未来能和全球的护水者一起,找到和支持更多的本地人保护我们自己的河流,让每一条河都能可游、可渔、可饮。


About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community's right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit waterkeeper.org