Fuxian Lake in Yunnan has long been known for its clean, unpolluted water. Motorized boat traffic was phased out years ago and, despite the serious development of shore-side businesses over the past decade, the lake remains one of the most, pristine bodies of water in southwest China.
Despite existing safeguards, the government of Yuxi Prefecture, where Fuxian is located, has banned swimming in the lake for the foreseeable future. A related preliminary announcement was issued October 9, and put into effect 11 days later at midnight on October 20.
A reporter from Kunming newspaper Metropolitan Times tracked down "the relevant person in charge" and was told reasons exist for the newly enacted prohibition. The relevant person explained that concerns over pollution were one important factor, as were Fuxian's status as a "strategic national water reserve" and the rising prevalence of accidents involving tourists.
The first of these considerations revolves around a national policy more so than it does a localized decision in Yuxi. As the most populous country on earth — 20 percent of the global total — China suffers from a severe lack of fresh water, having access to less than seven percent of the world total. As per capita use across the country continues to increase, it is expected China will need to begin importing water from other nations in the near future.
Fuxian, along with many other clean bodies of water across the Middle Kingdom, have been labeled both strategic and protected at a national level. The ban on swimming at Fuxian, said the relevant official, reflects President Xi Jinping's edict that national water management must stress "government protection first, guided by scientific planning and green development".
The second major reason for stopping people from getting into the waters of Fuxian Lake may be the most surprising — safety. Each year, hundreds of emergency calls are made to Fuxian search and rescue personnel and medical first responders. Those numbers have grown in the recent past and now typically top 1,000 annually.
Beaches will remain open at resorts and scenic areas ringing the shore, but entering the lake in any fashion is now disallowed, for most. There are reportedly 1,960 boats licensed to ply the waters of Fuxian, but only those associated with the provincial SCUBA diving club are allowed to conduct activities in the water. For the time being, enjoying the water at Yunnan's cleanest lake will have to be done with tanks of air and rebreathers.
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