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Grass now grows where fish once swam as China’s largest freshwater lake dries out

Parts of China’s largest freshwater lake have dried up, with a huge patch of grassland where there once was water after the level fell continuously since September.

The water level of Poyang Lake in eastern Jiangxi province as measured by the Xingzi hydrological station had dropped to 10.6 metres on Thursday. The lake entered its low-water period of less than 12 metres on September 19, 54 days earlier than usual, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The report said tourists could now walk on the former lakebed in Duchang county and view flowering aubergine plants, as if they were wandering through fields.

Pictures show well-known Luoxingdun island in Lushan, a city that neighbours Duchang, high and dry and surrounded by grass. The island that used to be in the middle of the lake is currently regarded as a scale of the water level’s ups and downs, rather than a navigation mark and lighthouse as in the past.

Zhu Lilai, the deputy director of the water resources department of Jiangxi, told Xinhua the early low-water period could be partly blamed on decreasing water levels in the Yangtze River, reduced rainfall and human activities.

Local fishermen complained the number of fish they caught had decreased and their fishing season was now two months shorter as a result of the early onset of the low-water period.

Finless porpoises that live in the lake and migratory birds would also be influenced by the reduction in water, according to the report.

The water level of Dongting Lake, considered the largest freshwater lake in China in ancient times and also called Eight-hundred-li-Dongting because of its size, has also reduced gradually due to human activities in recent decades.