Tianchi Lake, an alpine lake and popular tourist spot in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is to undergo four years of restoration work.
According to local officials, human activity has caused the southern bank to shrink by about 18 meters. Further, the depth of the lake has decreased by about 20 meters since 1992.
As a result, some 6.7 hectares of the grassland on the southern bank have turned into sand.
"The lake has been getting smaller and it will dry out in as little as 80 years if protection doesn't begin now," said Gao Feng, director of Tianchi Nature Reserve Forest Protection Office.
As a preliminary effort in the restoration and protection project, businessmen, residents and herdsmen have been moved out of the major scenic spots of the Tianchi tourist area and relocated, Zhang Zhende, secretary of the Party committee of Mokang, told China News Service.
Residential, husbandry and catering services will be kept away from the scenic area after the restoration to prevent further degradation of the environment, Zhang added.
The plan was recently approved by the Ministry of Construction and the central government has earmarked 800 million yuan (US$100 million) for the project.
According to the plan, after the project is finished in 2010, the tourism area around the lake will be enlarged from the present 158 square kilometers to 548 square kilometers.
Tianchi is located some 110 kilometers from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang.
The lake was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1990.
(China Daily September 18, 2006)