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Hanoi Starts Cleaning Hoan Kiem Lake 2 Years After Beloved Turtle Died From Pollution

Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake will be cleaned up two years after its famous reptile resident died in its polluted waters.

Local authorities recently announced a VND29 billion (US$1.28 million) plan to clean the lake, according to VnExpress. The state-owned Hanoi Sewage and Drainage Ltd. will dredge 57,000 cubic meters of mud from the lake between December 1 and February 7.

The lake is contaminated with harmful levels of bacteria, toxic gases and metals. Vo Tien Hung, the company's director, said in February that the plan was urgent because the lake can no longer restore itself.

A recent article by Zing shared that the cleaning project has commenced earlier than planned. Sanitation workers are currently dredging about 1,000 cubic meters of waste from the lake per day. By the end of the effort, the team will have covered some 9.7 hectares of the lake.

The dredging process will take place seven days a week between 9pm and 5am (midnight and 5am on weekends) to minimize disturbances to one of Hanoi’s busiest tourist attractions. The team also plans to complete the cleaning before the Tet holiday next year. Mud from the lake’s bottom will be transported to a landfill 13 kilometers away in Hanoi's Thanh Tri District, while fresh groundwater will be pumped in from nearby wells.

The company will perform the task in three stages so that the lake's living creatures can be safely moved. Local experts have stressed the need to be mindful of the lake’s biodiversity and fragile ecosystem while dredging. Nguyen Ngoc Ly, director of the Centre for Environment and Community Research, recently suggested regulations to prevent residents from releasing invasive species into the lake that further harm the ecosystem.

The lake was once home to one of the world’s last Yangtze giant soft-shell turtles. Endearingly referred to as Cu Rua, or Great-Grandmother Turtle, its death two years ago sent spasms of grief across the city. The New York Times explains: “It would be difficult to overstate Cu Rua’s spiritual and cultural significance.”

She was associated with the 15th-century legend of Le Loi, who returned a magical sword to a golden turtle god in the lake after using it to defeat the occupying Chinese.

Before her death, Cu Rua had been seen surfacing to breathe because of the lake’s lack of oxygen. In 2011, reports of the turtle’s deteriorating health prompted locals to attempt cleanup efforts. Ultimately this proved insufficient.

Pollution in the city’s bodies of water is not limited to Hoan Kiem Lake. Hanoi’s Environment and Community Research Center has found that 25 out of 30 local lakes they tested were contaminated due to uncontrolled household and business waste. Pollution was cited as the reason why 200 tons of fish died in Hanoi’s West Lake last October.

[Photos via Zing]


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