Qinghai to ward off looming lake crisis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2007, 12:00am

Qinghai plans to halt infrastructure development and remove most permanent buildings around Qinghai Lake to ward off a looming ecological crisis caused by human activity. Officials in the northwestern province promised the measures would not hurt tourism.

Under the plan, which provincial leaders are still discussing, all permanent construction around the nation's largest saltwater lake would be suspended and no new projects would be approved, according to Xinhua.

Existing lakeside structures such as highways and hotels would be shut down and demolished.

National highway 109, which passes the southern edge of the lake, would be rerouted. Vehicles would not be allowed to enter the lake area and horses, bicycles and electric-powered golf buggies would be the only permissible transport. Walking paths would be built for tourists.

The lake area would gradually be turned into a closed, protected zone that met the standards for Unesco's world natural heritage sites, Qinghai deputy governor Jidi Majia said.

'The starting point of all our actions is environmental protection, to keep Qinghai Lake forever divine in the heart of Tibetans,' he said.

Tourism would not be harmed, he said. 'The lake tours will be ecological, natural, cultural and romantic.'

A Qinghai Tourism Bureau official admitted it was difficult to develop tourism while preserving the environment. He said the area was very big and any measures that hurt business would not be welcomed.

'The environment probably won't improve much as the volume of tourists continues to rise,' he said.

Qinghai Academy of Social Science researcher Ma Shenglin said tourism had caused serious water pollution, degraded soil and damaged grassland in the area.

'The once-good soil, compressed by tyres and shoes, has become a major source of dust storms,' Professor Ma said.