When it comes to capturing the perfect image for WWF, photographers and film-makers always go to unbelievable lengths. I recently experienced just what a whirlwind of activity and dedication is involved when I joined Pretzel Films on a trip to China. Our week-long mission was to document the inspiring stories behind our partnership with HSBC in transforming the fortunes of Lake Hong and restore it to its former beauty.
After 24 hours in transit we arrived in Lake Hong– along with more equipment than people and luggage put together. We were here to gather the personal stories of individuals who have been instrumental to the success in restoring the lake and the wider environment.
Lake Hong is one of the largest lakes in China. But in the 1960s, this and many other lakes were cut off from the main Yangtze river. Without a natural flow of fresh water in and out of the lake, it became severely polluted. In 2002, thanks to funding from HSBC, we were able to start tackling the problem.
Anyone who’s ever tried to learn any other language (let alone Mandarin) knows that translation can be a difficult art to master. So we were incredibly lucky to have Qing – a colleague from WWF-China. She is now superwoman in my eyes, for her unflappable ability to guide me, the director, cameraman and producer, as well as for our film’s protagonist– Mr Zhang
It is Mr Zhang’s inspiring story that features in our film. Please take time to watch the result – it’s a fascinating account of how we’ve helped to transform the water quality and improved the quantity and quality of fish in the lake. So now people are able to make more income. And Mr Zhang’s beloved endangered birds have returned to the lake once more.
My time on the lake and in the surrounding villages made me appreciate why Lake Hong has long featured in Chinese poems, literature and paintings: the lake and its wildlife possess a timeless beauty. It has the most incredible light and colours that I tried to capture in my photographs. And it has the best food I’ve ever experienced. Everything is freshly sourced in and around the lake – including the ubiquitous lotus flower, which ended up forming part of every meal and snacks we had.
Lake Hong locals are rightly proud of their environment. They value nature because of the positive impact it has on their lives and futures. Our work with HSBC has educated over 144,000 fishermen and farmers on sustainable aquaculture practices. It’s now those locals including Mr Zhang who are the real heroes. They are the ones who will continue to ensure the conservation of this beautiful place.
Find out more about Mr Zhang’s story
The story continues at The Water Hub
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