Authorities in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, said that the unit responsible for a fuel spill in Dianchi Lake would be fined not more than 100,000 yuan (US$12,639.7), Beijing News reported yesterday.
More than 13 hectares of water area in Dianchi Lake -- the largest freshwater lake on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau -- was polluted on Tuesday by fuel released by an engineering ship on a mission to clean up the lake.
The Dianchi administration bureau in Kunming immediately launched an investigation.
"When we reached the lake, the surface was covered with diesel. It reflected in the sunshine and showed the color of rainbow," Zhang Liangping, one director of the Dianchi administration bureau, told China National Radio (CNR).
The CNR report said Tuesday's spill was one of the most serious accidents in Dianchi Lake.
The ships working on the lake are required to be equipped with a facility to separate fuel oil from water. However, the ship responsible for the accident lacked this equipment and directly discharged diesel into the lake.
Further investigation is still underway by local environmental authorities.
For the past few days, the city has experienced rain and wind, which made dealing with the spilled oil on the surface difficult. Besides making efforts to clean up the oil, the department is also looking for floating fuel being pushed along the lake's surface by the wind. So far, they have made no progress.
"Large amounts of fuel will seriously destroy the ecosystem of Dianchi Lake," Wang Yong, vice director of Dianchi fishing supervision department, told CNR.
"On the one hand, the waste oil, as organic material, will strengthen the current pollution; on the other hand, the layer of fuel will create a barrier between the air and water, which will harm aquatic life."
Currently, about 130 such ships are working on the lake to clear up silt.
In order to prevent repeated cases and protect the lake, local authorities decided to halt the operation of such ships next year.
The Dianchi Lake, one of the most famous sightseeing spots on the plateau, became polluted in the late 1970s. Since the 1990s, pollution has become worse, increasingly tarnishing the beauty of the lake.
China listed the lake as one of the three key lakes in dire need of pollution prevention and regulation. So far, the country has invested more than 4 billion yuan (US$505.6 million) into improving the ecosystem of the lake. The municipal government of Kunming has also invested more than 1 billion yuan (US$126.4 million) in treating the lake.
(China Daily October 14, 2006)