@AlPage48, your question may be answered below. Just published, a comprehensive article with pictures of the illegal golf courses and demolition of over 1,000 villas and flats along the banks of Dianchi:
"Ahead of COP15 summit, China cracks whip on environmental corruption in Kunming.
China is due to host a major environmental meeting that it hopes will put Kunming, known as ‘City of Eternal Spring’, on the map
But this hasn’t stopped the Chinese leadership from exposing a scandal involving local officials and developers to build projects in conservation areas
by Wang Xiangwe
Kunming, capital of China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, is famed as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate which allows plants and flowers to bloom all year round.
And the Dianchi Lake, the biggest freshwater lake in the province and the sixth-largest in the country, is a top tourist destination billed as “a pearl on the plateau”, referring to the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, home to a vast diversity of flora and fauna. More than half of China’s plant species and protected wild animals are found here.
This probably explains why the Chinese leadership has chosen the city to host a key United Nations biodiversity summit, officially known as the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention of Biological Diversity.
COP15, the biggest diversity summit in a decade, will be the first time China takes the lead in forging a major international accord for nature, similar to the Paris climate agreement.
Chinese President Xi Jinping
has personally appealed to world leaders on several occasions to join the summit, which has been delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic
and is now scheduled for October.
So it comes as a surprise that Chinese leaders have decided to expose a scandal involving local officials and property developers in Kunming, who colluded to breach local and national laws to build residential buildings and golf courses in conservation areas along the shorelines of the Dianchi Lake.
Since last weekend, state media have carried extensive reports based on the month-long probe by the central government environmental investigators, who found blatant destruction of the ecosystem around the lake, which covers about 310 square kilometres in the southern suburbs of Kunming.
Some leading media outlets, including the People’s Daily newspaper and Xinhua news agency, have run scathing commentaries on the alleged collusion and called for stern punishments.
The reports and commentaries have caused a national uproar and a huge embarrassment for the provincial and city officials tasked with organising the logistics for the COP15 summit raising the international profile of the city and province.
Beijing’s surprising decision to air the dirty laundry in public should be commended, and is a sign of its conviction to tackle the environmental degradation head-on.
If history can be any guide, one would have expected the central government to sweep such negative findings under the carpet and deal with the problems under the radar, for fear of putting an unwanted spotlight on a city that will soon host such a high-profile environmental event, thus sullying China’s overall image.
Tackling pollution and environmental degradation has been one of Xi’s signature projects ever since he came to power in late 2012, along with the campaigns to root out corruption and extreme poverty – all of which have won him popular support.
Before that, Xi’s predecessors, including Hu Jintao, frequently talked up the importance of environmental protection, only for local officials to realise those words were empty rhetoric.
But Xi is different. Couching his policy in the punchy line which says that clear waters and green mountains are just as valuable as mountains of gold and silver, he matches his words with tough actions.
In 2018, Xi made an example of the party chief of Shaanxi province, his hometown, who was later given a suspended death sentence on corruption charges. The trigger for Zhao Zhengyong’s downfall was his move to obfuscate Xi’s directives to investigate the illegal construction of residential developments in the ecologically fragile Qinling mountains.
But the latest scandal in Kunming has shown that local officials’ passive resistance to Xi’s policy agenda remains strong because of corruption and greed.
According to the findings of the investigators, about one-third of the 163km shorelines of the Dianchi Lake – most of which are designated nature conservation areas – have been encroached by property developments and golf courses.
The report particularly highlighted two projects, one golf club and one residential development, for blatantly violating nature conservation regulations for years, apparently with the tacit support of local officials.
The reports offer fascinating details on how the local officials and businesses put on a farcical show to circumvent the rules, often by using an ecologically-sounding name.
The 18-hole golf course, on the eastern coast of the lake, covers 703 mu (46.9 hectares), about 65 per cent of which falls into the green zone conservation areas in which such projects are explicitly banned.
Under the thin disguise of operating an “outdoor tourist and recreational park”, the owners managed to secure all the necessary approvals to begin the construction in 2008 and operations in 2010, even though the central government issued an explicit ban on new courses in 2004, according to the reports.
The club continued to run despite at least seven crackdowns by the central and local authorities. In one instance, the local officials lied to the central government that the course had ceased its operations.
Before the central government investigators arrived last month, the owners inserted small trees on the surface of the course. In front of the TV cameras, the investigators asked one local official to pull out one tree with his hands, which the official did with embarrassing ease.
At the nearby Changyao Hill, another conservation area, the developers turned 90 per cent of the hill’s surface into “concrete mountains” with the construction of low-rise residential buildings and villas, some of which have been sold, according to the reports. The developers appeared to have secured all the necessary approvals under the guise of operating a holiday resort.
Following the reports, the top provincial leaders have rushed to the scene and all the buildings are being demolished. There is no doubt that a number of local officials will be punished and some of them may even receive jail sentences for corruption.
It is worth noting that despite the hyperbole of calling the Dianchi Lake the “pearl”, it was in fact one of the worst polluted lakes in China due to rapid urbanisation in the 1980s that saw companies discharge untreated waste into the water.
For years, its water quality was rated inferior to Grade V, the worst level in the national grading system. After three decades of often unsuccessful attempts and investment totalling 50 billion yuan (US$7.7 billion), the water was only upgraded to Grade IV in 2018, the second-worst level.
Chinese officials may intend to hold up its latest crackdown in Kunming as a timely example of its own conservation efforts for the world leaders who will attend the COP15 in October.
But it also shows a challenging road ahead."