CHINA—Dongting Lake, known as the Cloud of Dream Water in ancient China and dubbed “the most beautiful lake on earth,” stretches across the nation's central provinces of Hunan and Hubei, merging into the Changjiang River on the north and touching the four streams of Xiang, Zi, Ruan, and Feng to its south. Its name in Chinese means “a cave palace for immortals.” Dongting Lake is the second largest freshwater lake in China, and both its ecosystem and water quality have been deteriorating in recent years due to uncontrolled sewage discharges. The water birds, seasonal birds, and fish stocks that had once been a major feature of the lake are fast disappearing. Its natural beauty is fading at an alarming rate, and the lake is now heavily polluted.
According to official statistics, there are 101 paper manufacturers belonging to the three cities around the lake—Yiyang, Yueyang, and Changde. With the exception of a few large enterprises, most do not have environmental protection equipment required by rule; as a result, untreated sewage is directly discharged into the lake.