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Businesses shut down to sustain ecology


04-14-2017 09:19 BJT

(Source: CGTN)

Yunnan's Dali Bai autonomous prefecture -- in south-west China -- is a hotbed for tourism, both domestic and international. And the majestic Erhai Lake is one of its most popular attractions.

However, due to ecological concerns, local authorities banned any form of business around the lake at the beginning of this month. Jiang Shaoyi takes a look now at how the policy is progressing and how it has affected the lives of the locals.

Erhai Lake is well-known for its beautiful and untouched natural sceneries.

However, there was a sense it may lose its unique allure....with the enormous footfall of tourists hitting it annually...

"I remember when I was a kid, the water in the lake was clean and clear. We used the lakewater to cook. But after years of developing tourism and the local economy, you cannot drink the water any more," local resident Zhao Siquan said.

Environmental authorities pointed their fingers at the booming businesses around the lake.

"The lakewater quality has been deteriorating, especially in the last two or three years. The density of phosphorus in the water has shown an increase, which, we think, has a clear connection with the increasing emissions from the surrounding restaurants and hotels," said Wang Shengrui, expert, China Research Academy of Environmental Sciences.

The local government has implemented a project, which aims to put an end to the pollution.

Part of that includes the closure of about 2,000 restaurants and guesthouses around the lake.

A series of inspections will be carried out on their business licenses and the pollutants they discharge.

Though it might ease pollution levels around the lake, it will definitely be a major blow to the local economy, which relies immensely on tourism.

"Total investment in our hotel is at 13 million yuan. Now I'm confused. It's a hard time for me. We have been supporting the environment protection of the lake, but the shut down has given us so much pressure," said Zeng Yun, guesthouse owner.

It's not just the local tourism market which is suffering. Those involved in agriculture are also feeling aggrieved...

"Many villagers who work at restaurants or hotels now have lost their income. The vegetables we grew are also hard to sell, as restaurants are closed," said Zhao Jincai, villager.

The announcement means that business owners have to build their own sewage treatment facilities and meet certain discharging standards before they can reopen, standards which still haven't been finalized.

"We have started the drafting regulations for hotels surrounding the lake, and will release them later. We will then examine the businesses and approve those who have reached the standards," said Zhang Yong, head, Erhai Lake Management & Protection HQ.

Striking a balance between environmental protection and local development is something which the government needs to place an extra focus on going forward.

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