NANCHANG -- China banned river sand mining in Poyang, the country's largest freshwater lake, on Tuesday to protect its aquatic environment.
An official from the water resources department in the eastern Jiangxi Province where the lake is located, told Xinhua the mining will resume in designated areas with limits on the output after an official plan on the mining comes out.
"However, the ban will be applied to the whole lake area until then," said Luo Xiaoyun, the bureau's deputy director. He didn't give a time frame for the mapping plan.
Poyang Lake, in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, has been plagued by the rampant mining of river sand. This has been driven by a need for materials by the country's robust real estate development.
River sand is regarded as a good construction material. However, the excessive exploitation of the resource has eroded river beds and adversely affected the river system, Luo said.
In 2000, a ban on river sand mining was implemented on the Yangtze River. Since then, sand miners have swarmed to Poyang Lake.
"There are more than 200 tug boats mining sand on the lake at peak times. The power of most sand dredgers is above 3,000 kilowatts, each allowing a per hour mining capacity of 10,000 tons approximately," Luo said.
Besides damaging the ecological environment, the mining has also greatly endangered navigation safety on the river, he added.
He emphasized that concerned government departments would carry out spot checks to ensure an enforcement of the ban.
Poyang Lake covers 3,583 square kilometers and has an annual average water depth of 8.4 meters. The Jiangxi provincial government has made initiatives to build a 400-sq-km area of the lake into a national wetland park to better preserve ecology in its core area.
Officials from the State Forestry Administration (SFA) and the provincial forestry authorities, professors and scholars of universities and research institutions will complete the plan in two months. It is expected to undergo a final appraisal by the SFA in June.
The ban on river sand mining is expected to contribute to the success of the wetland park initiative. It is considered significant in protecting nearly 1 million migratory birds who make their habitat there.