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Kunming deploying invasive species to clean up Dianchi

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A pilot project using a type of invasive water hyacinth species to reverse the process of eutrophication that has led to large-scale algae outbreaks in Dianchi Lake will launch today at the lake's southern end.

A Kunming Information Hub story reported that the project will experiment with controlled growing of the prolific aquatic plant to filter nitrogen and phosphorus out of the lake and create a source of biomass that can be used as fertilizer or to produce methane gas for generating electricity.

Dianchi's water quality is currently ranked class V, meaning it is unfit for human consumption or even agricultural or industrial use.

So far 6.7 hectares of water hyacinth have been planted and a processing factory constructed near the southern end of Dianchi in Jinning County. The hyacinth growing area is slated to eventually grow to 67 hectares.

Water hyacinth is native to South America but has choked lakes around the world including, famously, Lake Victoria in Africa.

Water hyacinth was originally considered a threat to Dianchi because it could outcompete other species and choke the lake. But now that agricultural and residential runoff have created an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lake, scientists are hoping the plant can absorb large amounts of those substances from the water.

The pilot project aims to develop better methods of mechanized harvesting and converting the plant into fertilizer or methane gas.

It is unclear if this project is part of any sort of larger comprehensive strategy for cleaning up the lake, on which 100 billion yuan (US$ 14.6 billion) is expected to be spent by the year 2020.

Image: Human Flower Project

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