|Tourists take a boat trip on Fuxian Lake. Yuxi plans to create a wetland area surrounding the lake.Qin Qing / Xinhua
By Hu Yongqi and Li Yingqing
BEIJING, Sept. 30(Xinhuanet) -- Yuxi in Yunnan province plans to invest 10.5 billion yuan ($1.69 billion) over the next three years to create a vast wetland area surrounding Fuxian Lake, one of China's biggest freshwater lakes, to better protect the natural water source, a senior local official said.
Fuxian Lake, on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, covers 216 square kilometers. At its deepest, it measures 157 meters, and it accounts for 9.2 percent of China's freshwater lake water.
The lake boasts a rich though fragile ecosystem. In recent years, it has come under threat from over-fishing and pollution from tourism facilities along its shores. Authorities have an ongoing policy of closing sources of pollution and cleaning the lake. The planned wetland area is the latest move in this policy.
In a recent interview with China Daily, Rao Nanhu, mayor of Yuxi, said measures will be taken to safeguard Fuxian Lake and two other plateau lakes and that the planned wetland area is one of the key elements of the strategy.
The plan involves establishing more than 1,600 hectares of wetland around the lake over three years, said Chen Yong, vice-mayor of Yuxi, which has the third largest economy in Yunnan province.
Motor-powered boats are prohibited to run on the lake and all the mines near the lake have already been closed down, said Rao. "The fact is that we have 180,000 residents currently living around the lake and 20,000 within 100 meters of the water. According to our survey, most of the pollution came from those families," she said.
Farming contributes about 70 percent of the pollution discharged into the lake, Chen said. He also said 13 of the 16 rivers that flow into the lake have been polluted by factory waste and sewage upstream.
The three lakes on the plateau — Fuxian, Xingyun and Qilu — are top priorities for the local authorities seeking to control pollution. Due in part to Fuxian's role as a strategic water resource for the city, authorities want to maintain its water purity level, which has been listed as Grade 1 generally, Rao said.
Authorities say that local economic growth will help pay for the environmental protection measures.
Yuxi's revenue for the first half of 2013 was 22.4 billion yuan, an 8.2 percent increase on the same period in 2012, Rao said.
Rao said the industrial structure of the area will be altered step by step to move farmers from the area around Fuxian Lake. To make room for the wetland, 15,000 residents on the north shores will be relocated to reduce waste as much as possible near the protected area, Chen said.
Over the next five years, 2.35 million square meters of houses will be dismantled, and 373 hectares of farmland reverted to natural conservation habitat, while 21,780 people surrounding the lake will be moved to other residential complexes, Chen said.
The city government will implement five related projects to realize the goal of blue sky, clean water and increased forest coverage, based around reducing pollution and growing more plants, Rao said.
Fostering forestry will be another important priority for the city. At present, 54 percent of Yuxi's land is covered with trees. The city government will plant more trees near the three lakes, especially Fuxian, to increase that figure to 57 percent by 2015."
Rao worked in the Youth League system for 16 years and has visited all 129 counties in Yunnan, from remote and impoverished households in rural areas to urban families.
"I have a clearer picture of how people live and in what ways officials should improve," Rao said. "Environmental protection is crucial for social development, and we won't follow the old model of contaminating something and then finding remedies. Meanwhile, we also have to find ways to boost the economy and raise living standards for the locals."
(Source: China Daily)