A Photography Project on the Sustainable Development of the Dongting Lake

Dongting Lake is the second largest freshwater lake in China and plays a significant role in irrigating the Dongting Plain, protecting biological diversity and regulating the large amount of water in Yangtze River. It covers 2691km2 surface water and 1680 km2 wetland located in Hunan Province. Dongting area is one of the "Land of fish and Rice" in China due to its abundant nature resources and great agricultural productions. However, recently protection policies are not working efficiently as expected, and the environmental issues keep getting serious. According to the data, there are 788 manufactures including more than 250 Papermills nearby the lake. More than 90% of the industrial sewage has not been treated and flowed into Dongting Lake directly. (2008) Overfishing and illegally sand mining leads to serious biological unbalance in the lake area. Nutrient pollution and eutrophication caused by home waste and organic agriculture pollution in this high-density population area cannot be neglected as well. How to balance economic development and environmental protection is an essential issue for the sustainable development in Dongting area.

I'm a girl who was born in the Dongting area. Not only because I am a resident here, but also because the significant role that Dongting play in China's environment and economy, Dongting is a worth studying project. Since I'm concentrating on economics and photography, this is the opportunity for me to integrate these two subjects together continuing taking pictures and doing research on something that I care. I already have some pictures taken by the Dongting Lake from last winter break. Most of the pictures came out really good with a sense of loneliness and helpless, but the location was narrowed to Yeuyang city. I would love to know more about what the other sides of Dongting Lake look like. How is the economic development? What environmental problems they have. Therefore, this is going to be a research based photography project. In order to accomplish this project, first I want to get a comprehensive image about the current and past situation of Donting Lake. I used to work for Green Hunan and volunteered for The Association of Yangtze Finless Porpoise Conservation Yueyang Branch (two environmental NGO) for a short period of time. I believe friends there could give me a lot of useful help on resources, research method and directions. After that, I'm planning to do a field research around Donting area, stop by Yueyang, Changde (a behin, Yiyang (three major cities near by Dongting Lake), Xiang, Zi, Yuan and Li(four major rivers fed by Dongting Lake) , Chenglingji (the place Dongting River flow to Yangtze River), and some major factories and small towns near by Dongting Lake, and shoot a series of pictures during the trip. I am not going to just take lots of ugly pictures that documents environmental destruction of Dongting Lake, instead from an aesthetic perspective to reflect the environmental issue this area is encountering. In order to have a better idea and get some inspirations on how to shoot this project, I would like to interview some residences living by the lake, asking them questions and maybe letting them show me some old pictures of Donting they have. I want to discover different relationships between Dongting Lake and human, creatures, agriculture, and industry. I want to capture its development and changes, colorful and gloomy, majestic and elegant, happiness and sadness. I wish my pictures could show a different side of Dongting that people may not notice. I want people to be aware of the importance of environmental protection not only specifically for Donting Lake, but also everywhere. Moreover, I'm going to Japan next semester, so I will have a four months winter break and one month summer break, which means I could shoot this project in different seasons. From what I know, no photographers have systematically done a complete project on Dongting Lake in different period time before. I would like to be the first.

After I finished my photography project, I want to do more further research and combine what I have seen to write a research paper on pursuing sustainable development in Dongting area. When I back to school, I will print my pictures out, frame it nicely and have an exhibition as my division 3 in the school gallery. I will try to find exhibiting opportunities in China as well.

LIASE is a grant that opens to all kinds of projects related to environmental issues. What I am going to do might not be as efficient and practical as scientific research. However, photography is a widespread media that everybody could enjoy without any kind of background. It could give people the most direct feeling, and the influences to people are unconscious. Besides, the research paper I'm going to write could also serve as a background for people who want to do further scientific research. By doing this project, it could deepen my understanding on environmental economics and photography; it allows me to apply literal knowledge that I learn in the US into the real situation.

Additionally, I will have a precious experience with the place I grew up. Only with LIASE's support, I could have the opportunities to do the fieldwork around Dongting, and I can't wait to start my project!