A Case Study of Environmental Pollution in Dianchi Lake, China

Open Access
Day, Drew
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Asian Studies and Forest Science
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • David Giguette Atwill, Thesis Supervisor
  • Elizabeth Weeks Boyer, Thesis Supervisor
  • Gregory James Smits, Honors Advisor
  • John Edward Carlson, Honors Advisor
  • eutrophication
  • water pollution
  • China
  • Dianchi
  • environment
This thesis is a preliminary evaluation of the cleanup efforts of the heavily polluted and eutrophicated body of water Lake Dianchi in Kunming, China. Fragmentation between the central and local governments in China has on many occasions resulted in the degradation of the environment as a consequence of the pursuit of economic growth. The case of Dianchi Lake fortunately has had the combined backing of the central and local governments for a cleanup effort that has lasted about a decade and a half; however, the programs enacted have been ineffectual and in some cases may have produced an overall harmful effect on the lake. This study presents the general conditions for environmental production in China throughout its history, the history of Dianchi Lake’s pollution and cleanup efforts, the current cleanup effort and its effectiveness, and what changes must be made to avoid past and potential future mistakes. The findings of this study show that the greatest historical mistake in attempting to clean Dianchi Lake has been the neglect of main non-point sources of phosphorus pollution, namely the use of phosphorus-rich fertilizer. Current cleanup programs continue to be ineffective in curbing the use of these key pollutants. Other issues include water treatment and infrastructure inadequacies, land-use policies, and public education. The most recent cleanup policies deal with these issues to differential effect. The future success of the current push to cleanse Lake Dianchi remains to be seen, and the amount of peer-reviewed literature on the most recent cleanup effort must increase before any definitive evaluation can be made. Cases such as that of Dianchi Lake should be used as a model for understanding what should be done in the cleanup of other eutrophicated lakes worldwide.