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Permanent Buildings Banned at Qinghai Lake
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 The northwestern Province of Qinghai will take tough measures to prevent the environment around Qinghai Lake, China's largest inland salt-water lake, from deteriorating.

"In addition to projects currently under construction, existing hotels and restaurants will also all be demolished," said Jetik Majil, vice governor of Qinghai.

Under a new plan for tourism development around the lake, expected to be enacted next year, permanent buildings including hotels, restaurants, and tourism service facilities will be relocated to an "accommodation zone" at least three kilometers away from the southern bank of the lake, Jetik said.

"Grassland will be restored after the buildings are torn down. In the future, tourists can only travel around the lake riding a horse or bike, by electric bus, or walking on a designated plank road," said the vice governor.

More than 3,200 meters above sea level, the 4,300-square-km Qinghai Lake, held a "Holy Lake" by Tibetans, is home to 189 species of birds and a crucial barrier against the invasion of desert from the west.

Beautiful scenery has attracted more and more tourists to the lake in recent years. According to Dong Lizhi, deputy manager-general of the Qinghai Lake Tourism Development Co., Ltd., more than 890,000 people visited the lake in 2006; by this past July, the lake had received more than 500,000 tourists and the figure was expected to hit one million by the end of this year.

However, pollution comes with booming tourism as hotels and restaurants have been found to discharge wastes directly into the lake, and tourists are often found littering snack packages and drink bottles around the lake.

Additionally, rising temperatures and declining rainfall have caused the lake to continuously shrink over the past few decades.

Statistics from the provincial environmental protection administration show the lake shrank by more than 380 sq km between 1959 and 2006, and the average water level dropped three meters to the present 18 meters.

More than 111,800 hectares of land around the lake have been under the threat of desertification brought about by overgrazing and global warming, according to the provincial forestry department.

To curb the ecological degeneration near the lake, the Chinese government has invested 470 million yuan to recover vegetation around the lake and to deal with desertification. The government has also banned finishing in the lake since 1982.

"However, we have to say the situation is still worrying and we don't want to see the environment around the lake further worsening as tourism booms," said Jetik. "That is why we will launch the new program."

Jetik said, the garbage in the new accommodation zone will be collected and disposed at a nearby waste treatment factory, and more garbage bins will be put around the lake.

(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2007)

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