Yunnan's top legislative body is considering the overhaul of long-standing laws governing development of one the province's premier tourist destinations. Yunnan Standing Committee members are currently holding deliberations on a bill that could expand provincial-level oversight of how Erhai Lake (洱海) and its surrounding watershed are managed.
Enacted in 1988, the 'Dali Erhai Regulations' were the first area-specific laws of their kind to be implemented in the province. The statutes have been amended twice, once in 1998 and again in 2004. Amendments were made because the previous laws were considered to be "failing to keep up with economic development" and containing "unclear conservation objectives", according to a Yunnan Net report.
Under consideration is whether development oversight of the province's second largest lake and its catchment basin should be placed under the purview of provincial officials in Kunming. Such responsibilities currently fall under the ourview of 14 local townships and municipalities, including Xiaguan (下关), Shuanglang (双廊) and Xizhou (西洲).
If approved, the new regulations would give provincial leaders control over several key aspects of how the watershed is governed. They would include supervising the lake's water level, enforcing illegal dumping laws, setting and overseeing fishing seasons, licensing boat traffic and monitoring the progress of all private construction projects near the lakeshore or on the banks of its major tributaries.
The legal changes proposed in Yunnan echo recent moves by national lawmakers. Beijing recently decided to place management of the entire Yangtze River Basin under the control of the National Development and Reform Commission. No clear timetable has been announced regarding a final decision on the Erhai proposal.
However, deliberations on the legislation may be sped up as a story concerning Erhai Lake water contamination has become national news and a popular topic on social media network. Pictures circulated on WeChat earlier this week revealed a large section of the lake had turned an unnatural grayish-white color, leading people to refer to Erhai as niunai hai (牛奶海) — or 'milk sea'. Prefectural environmental protection authorities have apparently given themselves ten days to isolate the source of the pollution and clean up the befouled area of the lake.