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One man"s preservation efforts have mushroomed to encompass hundreds of volunteers and boost civic pride. Li Lei reports from Beijing, with Zhou Lihua and Liu Kun in Yichang, Hubei.
Get up at 5:30 am. Leave the house at 6 am and start collecting garbage on the banks of the Yangtze River. Finish collection at 7:30 am.
Li Nianbang, from Yichang, Hubei province, has followed this routine every weekend and national holiday for the past few years, no matter what the weather.
Wearing rubber gloves and dragging a huge bag, the 52-year-old self-employed hairdresser has encountered everything from broken bottles to cans and rags during hundreds of early morning excursions in the riverside city, which crouches in the shadow of the Three Gorges Dam, a massive flood-control and hydropower project on the Yangtze River.
Three years ago, the Hubei native founded a volunteer group called Sanxia Yigong, or the "Three Gorges Ant Workers", which refers to the hundreds of volunteers who swarm across the riverbank like ants collecting garbage.
His motive was simple: to protect the river, which has provided local residents with water for drinking, irrigation and transportation, along with acting as a boundary marker with other provinces, for thousands of years. The waterway is also home to a wide array of endemic and endangered species, including the Chinese alligator and the Yangtze River dolphin.
However, the water has been polluted by domestic sewage and industrial wastewater for decades, while residents and visitors have strewn garbage along the riverbanks.
"A single ant is limited in power, but when many ants come together they bring change beyond measure," Li said. "That is what I anticipated our group would achieve."操作超时