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Natural Beauty of Sayram Lake to Be Recaptured
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Local governments of the Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture and the Bortala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, are to recover the natural landscapes of the Sayram Lake, a state-level nature reserve, by the year 2008, according to a Xinhua report on May 15.

Located between the two prefectures of Bortala and Ili, the lake encompasses an area of 457 square kilometers. The fault basin is at an elevation of 2,073 meters. The lake has a depth of 86 meters.

The lake is a wonderful natural water resource and is surrounded by lush grasslands. Tucked away in the mountains, it's secluded and, on occasions, misty. The surrounding snow-capped peaks and the dragon spruce plants (Picea saperate) on the mountains give a picture postcard feel to the area. In July and August local Mongolian and Kazak herds-people gather on the lake-side to hold their traditional ethnic activities which include horse-racing, wrestling and lifting sheep while galloping on horse-back.

However, over the past decades, tourist facilities have been built throughout the area by various investors and the planning and construction of projects has been uneven. This has damaged the natural landscape of the area.

Since 2004, the local governments of Ili and Bortala started to check up on and control the various enterprises in the scenic area. Now, most of the 40 or so herds families have been relocated in new residential areas with the historical households being preserved. Buildings and facilities in good order won't be demolished until new plans are drawn up while those in poor condition have already been knocked down. All the small stores, restaurants, vehicle repair shops and rest rooms along No. 312 state highway have also been demolished. Meanwhile, local governments have strengthened their management of current tourist facilities including the hire of horses and boats to prevent cheating or overcharging.

So far the local government of Bortala has invested 13 million yuan (US$1.62 million) in the construction of tourist reception facilities. It has also identified grass and wildlife protection areas. Local government in Ili went as far as to establish a special management committee for the planning, construction and environmental protection of the Guozigou-Sayram tourist zone.

Both the new Sayram tourist zones planned by Ili and Bortala will be kept a distance from the lake with all the lakeside holiday resorts being removed after 2008.

( by Li Jingrong and Wang Qian, May 19, 2006)

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