Sun Jian (right) checks on the growth of aquatic plants being grown in West Lake. (Photo courtesy of the department of water management of West Lake)

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"Aquatic plants are like underwater purifiers. When I hear people say that the water in West Lake is clean, I feel very happy. This shows that my efforts have paid off," said Sun Jian, who grows and takes care of aquatic plants in West Lake, Hangzhou city, east China's Zhejiang Province, together with his colleagues.

In 2009, a research and demonstration project was launched at West Lake. One of the project’s important goals is to restore aquatic plants in the lake to make its water ecosystem healthier.

Sun explained that it is not easy to grow aquatic plants in the lake because its soil has properties that are similar to those of incense ashes. Because of this, Sun and his colleagues used a minimal intervention method to grow plants in the lake.

Because there were a lot of pebbles at the bottom of the lake, some newly planted grass did not firmly take root in the soil, which resulted in the grass failing to settle in. After trying various planting methods, Sun and his colleagues eventually succeeded in helping the plants survive in the water.

Nearly 10 species of aquatic plants have been grown at the bottom of the lake.

It takes more effort to take care of the plants than to grow them, Sun said, adding that the most difficult challenge is preventing possible damage to the plants caused by fish and wild ducks in the lake. "We fenced off the areas where aquatic plants have been planted to keep those animals away," Sun explained.

Thanks to the efforts made by Sun and his colleagues over the course of more than 10 years, the planting area of aquatic plants in West Lake has reached 317,000 square meters. The plants have purified the water, reinforced the underwater soil and generated oxygen for fish and other another animals to breathe underwater.

Statistics show that the water quality of West Lake has risen from grade IV to grade III, and even to grade II in some areas. The lake also boasts rich biodiversity. A recent survey found that there are 36 species of fish, 27 species of benthic macroinvertebrates, 113 phytoplankton species, 43 zooplankton species and 27 periphytic algae species in West Lake.

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