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Lake cleanup pays off big with tourist dividends

By Wu Wencong  (China Daily)

09:03, August 29, 2012

Villagers use trained cormorants to fish at a wetland in Eryuan county near Erhai Lake, Yunnan province. (Wu Wencong / China Daily)

It was another sunny August morning by the side of Erhai Lake. Yang Chengzuo smiled from ear to ear as he stood in his yard, watching expat couples riding bikes on the wooden pathways that wind through the mixture of reeds, bulrushes and fleur-de-lis in the wetland park by the lake, thinking happily how every room in his 22-room family-run hostel was occupied.

Since the 36-year-old quit fishing and started the first hostel five years ago, 30 others have opened up in the lakeside village in Southwest China's Yunnan province.

According to data provided by Eryuan county, tourism revenue in 2011 increased 64 percent compared with the year before.

Yang and his fellow villagers owe the thriving tourism industry largely to efforts by the local government to tackle pollution in Erhai Lake, whose beauty it heavily relies on to attract travelers from around the world to the tourist hotspot.

From January to June, the water quality in the lake remained above the minimum standard for drinking water - not an easy feat for a lake adjacent to a county with almost 300,000 residents.

A decade ago, few would have thought that the lake, which was severely polluted by blue algae, would be called "one of the best protected lakes located near densely populated areas" by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

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