Restaurants and guesthouses around a well-known lake in Yunnan province will have to suspend business starting on Saturday for inspections, local authorities said on Friday.
Li Jincan, executive deputy mayor of Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, said at a news conference that no more new restaurants or guesthouses are allowed to be established near the core areas of Erhai Lake, and existing ones should close temporarily for inspections.
He said the businesses would be reassessed and only those with licenses and meeting certain standards could open again.
According to an announcement released by the prefectural government on Friday, the core areas refer to 100 meters to the west and north of Erhai Lake, 30 meters to the northeast of the lake, as well as all the villages around the lake.
The announcement also said business owners must ensure that their housing construction procedures and business licenses are valid. In addition, they have to build sewage treatment facilities on their own and meet sewage-discharging standards requested by environmental protection authorities before reopening.
Statistics from the Yunnan Provincial Tourism Development Commission showed that there are about 2,000 guesthouses around the lake. It's still unknown how many of them would be affected, but an industry insider who asked to be anonymous told China Daily that no more than 10 percent of the businesses had licenses.
The news raised concerns among business owners around the lake.
The owner of a guesthouse near the lake, who asked to be identified by his surname Zhao, said he was worried about the future because he had spent all of his savings on the business, which has about a dozen guest rooms.
“I don't know how many business owners like me will be affected and how the policies will affect the employment rate in Dali. But I hired six people and have to pay them salaries,” he said.
Dali has been a hot destination for tourists from China and abroad, and Erhai Lake is a must-go scenic spot for them, which has greatly boosted the development of the tourism industry near the lake.
But during the past five years, the number of tourists the prefecture received has increased quickly, from 15 million in 2011 to 39 million last year, which is believed to have put great pressure on the environmental capacity near the lake.
Dali authorities said the total amount of pollutants discharged last year had increased more than 50 percent compared with 2004.
The prefectural government released a series of guidelines in January, announcing the launching of campaigns to curb pollution.