(Yicai Global) May 11 – Renowned for natural beauty, Erhai Lake in southwest China’s Yunnan province is a hot scenic spot, but hordes of tourists have harmed the local environment.
The local government has resolved to shut down 2,415 restaurants and inns, and mothballed some 5,000 construction projects near the lake to protect the natural ecology.
At about 250 square kilometers in area, Erhai is China’s seventh-largest freshwater lake. Many ancient Chinese poems extol the lake’s beauty, which draws hundreds of thousands of tourists to nearby Dali each year. Visitors to Shuanglang, one of the most developed tourist towns in the area, numbered about 600,000 in 2009, and local tourism revenue amounted to USD1.75 million (CNY12 million). The town welcomed more than 1.5 million visitors, and tourism income hit CNY1.824 billion in last year’s first half alone.
The tourism boom has turned many small towns near the lake into building sites, and restaurants, hotels and inns proliferate. As a side effect of the flourishing tourist industry, water quality in the lake has deteriorated since 2000 because of pollution by blue-green algae -- or cyanobacteria -- and other impurities. The government has invested heavily in environmental remediation projects, but these have been of little avail.
The Dali government enacted the ‘toughest environmental protection policy’ at the end of March, and banned all restaurants and hospitality businesses at core locations within the water ecological protection area. The ban runs from April 1 until the lake sewage interception project comes into operation.
The ban closed 2,415 restaurants and inns in the ecological protection area, and suspended 4,918 in-progress construction projects, state-run Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. Also, 612 illegal buildings with a combined area of 106,100 square meters have been razed.
Shuanglang is seeking to finish construction of a local sewage treatment plant by year’s end, which will be the first lake sewage interception public-private partnership project in the country, said Lou Zenghui, head of Shuanglang’s resort administration committee. After project completion, some 560 currently-unlicensed restaurants and inns must obtain all the construction, environmental pollution, health and epidemic prevention, tax registration and special business licenses required before they can reopen.
“Though our establishments are now closed, we all know that Dali’s future depends on effective protection of Erhai Lake,” said Zhao Yihai, vice chairman of the inns’ association in Shuanglang.