Study eyes 'quake lakes' as tourist attractions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 12:00am

A feasibility study is under way to determine whether the Beichuan lakes created by Sichuan's May 12 earthquake have the potential to be tourist attractions.

Yang Liming , Beichuan county's publicity director, said yesterday that a team of experts had visited the area to survey the sites. The idea is to determine whether Tangjiashan - the biggest lake formed by the quake - could be spruced up to become a permanent attraction.

More than a dozen 'quake lakes' were created in the area.

The nation was on edge for more than a week as the rising waters in Tangjiashan threatened to swamp more than a million people. Hundreds of soldiers raced against time in dangerous conditions to dig a drainage channel - a project that eventually paid off.

'There is an idea to turn this site of heroism into a permanent tourism destination as we begin to rebuild our homeland. It is still a rough idea, prompting us to come up with more supporting material,' Ms Yang said.

'The experts mostly come from local geographic and demographic institutes. Their mission is to explore the area, take photos, gather data and compile a report, which we would submit to some higher-level decision-makers.'

But the coming rainy season might sink the ambitions, as the structures of dams created by natural landslides

were more unpredictable than their

man-made counterparts, said Fan Xiao , chief engineer of the provincial Geographic Survey Bureau.

'A feasibility report would be premature at this point. The rainy season could produce immense torrents, which, from experience, may wash away many of the landslide dams, as they are composed of mud and stone,' Professor Fan said.

To ensure the safety of tourists, real-time monitoring and artificial fortification measures, such as cementing the dam walls, would have to be implemented, Professor Fan said.

Cai Jianming , a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, said earthquakes had created many well-known scenic spots on the mainland and around the world.

But Mr Cai said: 'It is a safe bet that most visitors will be young people looking for adventure. Many will be backpackers on the trail of natural scenery. Therefore, there is no need for large-scale construction and definitely no demand for luxury hotels.'