1,000 hotels and restaurants face year-long closure on famed Chinese lake in Yunnan

A major water pollution clean-up on Yunnan’s Erhai Lake will mean that many businesses will be closed for a year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 8:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 April, 2017, 8:42am

More than 1,000 hotels and restaurants at a tourist area in southwest China’s Yunnan province face closure for a year amid a local government’s campaign to save water quality in the idyllic Erhai Lake.

Dali Bai Ethnic Autonomous Prefecture, where the lake is located, announced that a central preservation area of the lake had been set up and that and all restaurants and hotels were to close for 10 days from Saturday while certificates were checked. Hotels without complete sets of certificates will be shut until June next year, when new sewage pipes and a water treatment plant would be complete, the Chongqing Morning Post reported.

The second largest body of fresh water in Yunnan, Erhai Lake has become increasingly popular with city dwellers as a quiet getaway.

The prefectural government said the current waste treatment system could not keep pace with growing number of visitors and proliferation of restaurants and hotels. More household sewage was discharged directly in the lake, which suffered a blue algae attack in January.

A national quality survey found that pollution had increased more than 50 per cent since 2004. Although livestock and rural households still counted as the major source of pollution, waste from catering and hotels had increased the fastest.

Hotel and restaurant owners told the newspaper that there were nearly 2,000 establishments restaurants and hotels close to the lake, but only about 10 per cent had obtained the necessary permits because the government suspended approvals last year.

Thousands of tourists trapped by snow in Yunnan

They estimated that about 1,000 hotels and restaurants will have to shut down because of the requirements, but those located close to the ancient town of Dali were exempt.

Most hotel owners supported the move, saying that a clean lake was essential for their business. One hotel owner, who sold his home in Tianjin to open a business in Dali, said he would have to shut the hotel five months after opening, but did not seem to mind. “I can take the loss for the protection of Erhai Lake. It’s not a big deal. I can do something else,” he told the newspaper.

But others face huge losses. An owner from Guangdong province said he and several friends invested 7 million yuan (HK$7.9 million) to build a hotel with a lake view, but would have to shut down even before it opened for business. Meanwhile, he will still have to pay rent and a cleaner to maintain the hotel.

The owner said it had grown increasingly expensive to open a hotel along the lake, from 2 to 3 million yuan a few years ago to 7 million yuan last year and more than 10 million yuan this year.

It would take three to five years to recover the cost of a hotel, and suspending business for a year would cost the owners about 500,000 yuan.

The Dali Hotel Association, a non-government body with more than 1,000 members, complained that the government did not hold a comprehensive consultation in advance.