Constructed wetland – the ecological kidney in upper Yangtze River basin
“It is really amazing to see the improvement after the wetland is constructed with beautiful flowers and plants. You can never imagine that fish could swim in a pond of purified wastewater that used to be so black and bad smelling! Seeing the real change, my neighbours do not complain any more, and more and more families in the village are benefitting from the project.” – Wu Shibin, agritainment farmhouse owner and village leader of Yuanshan village, Guanyuan City, Sichuan Province
The Minjiang and Jialing rivers are two of the most important tributaries of the upper Yangtze River in China’s Sichuan and Chongqing provinces. Now, a new form of business, “agritainment,” is booming among farmhouse owners within these two river basins. “Agritainment” refers to any farm-based tourism operation that offers agriculture-themed entertainment, such as hands-on farming experiences and on-site sourced and produced meals.
Agritainment in Sichuan province is growing fast and accounts for more than one-third of China’s agritainment revenue . By the end of 2012, there were more than 1.5 million farmhouses receiving more than 6 billion visitors. Income from agritainment is expected to reach 100 billion Yuan in 2015.
Mr Wu Shibin, the 53-year-old village leader, is one of hundreds of farmhouse owners in Sichuan province. At the beginning of 2013, Wu started a small business, operating a restaurant and hostel at his compound. During the holiday season, he serves hundreds of visitors. Initially business was good, but only a few days after he opened the doors to guests, neighbors started complaining about wastewater and associated smells coming from the farm. As a leader who cares about his village and its residents Wu wanted to address the concerns.
He built a containment pool, which effectively collected wastewater but did not improve the smell. Daily wastewater produced by his agritainment business was leading to a number of environmental challenges, including impacting water quality in the lower reaches of the Minjiang and Jialing river basins.
Wu needed help and approached WWF. As part of its Yangtze River partnership with the Coca-Cola Company, WWF collaborated with Chongqing University’s College of Environmental and Chemical Engineering to pilot a wetland construction project aimed at controlling non-point pollution. Since its inception, the new wetland has functioned as an ecological kidney for Wu’s village as well as nearby villages, purifying wastewater from Wu’s agritainment business before it reaches the river. Ultimately, the installation of this wetland purifying system can demonstrate a possible solution for zero wastewater discharge from farmhouses and further reduce non-point water pollution from rural areas.
Today, behind Wu’s farmhouses, constructed wetlands have been transformed into delicate gardens. Purified wastewater is collected for future use in case of drought. In the reservoir, lotus flowers and water milfoil have been planted, and fish are swimming. Seeing dirty water purified by the wetland, local farmers, initially doubtful, are now believers in this innovative solution. Some famers were even willing to provide materials and do the construction by themselves under WWF’s guidance. WWF plans to roll out the project in Chongqing, Guangyuan and Chengdu, so that more farmhouses will benefit.