A river near World Heritage site Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is being polluted by thousands of tons of waste being dumped directly into the river.
"Most of the trash in the river is packaging from household things like washing powder floating from upstream. Bad habits like dumping trash are killing the Kuzhu River," Zhou Qinjiang, a worker from the Zhangjiajie tourism development company, told China Daily Monday.
Tons of dumped waste float along the Kuzhu River near the World Heritage Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province in this file photo. Courtesy of a netizen named Bangesuiping
The problem is especially bad during the rainy season when more waste flows downstream, she said.
However, some believe the development of tourism in Zhangjiajie, China's first National Forest Park, is putting pressure on the environment.
More than 10,000 people visited the site last year, according to figures from the tourism development company.
An article called Tourist Exploration Polluted Kuzhu River by a netizen named Bangesuiping shows eight photos of the river before and after tourism. The author also determined that household waste and tourism are the main causes of the river's deterioration.
Some netizens have even called on tourists to stay away from the river in order to protect the environment.
An old resident surnamed Chen, who has lived near the river for more than three decades, told local website rednet.com last Saturday that tourism promotes the economy at the expense of the environment.
Local government officials, however, don't consider the river that dirty. Chu Xinnian, head of Zhangjiajie environment protection bureau, told China Daily Monday that the river is not heavily polluted. Chu refused to give further comments.
The Kuzhu River is not the only river polluted by tourism. In protected natural zones across the country, 44 percent of the rivers are deluged by too much waste. Waters in 12 percent of the zones are polluted and air in 3 percent of the zones is polluted, according to a report by the National Man and Biosphere Reserve Committee.
Fuxian Lake, the country's second deepest fresh water lake in Yunnan province, is heavily polluted. Its water clarity - how deep one can see into the water - decreased from 675 meters in 1991 to 450 meters in 2007.
"Tourism always puts great pressure on the local environment, and air and water pollution and waste arrive at the same time," Xiao Xia, a tour guide in Zhangjiajie, told China Daily Monday.
Once the construction of a tourist site begins, the damage never ends, she said.
Chen Wenjun, vice-director of the tourism college of Guangzhou University, told sohu.com that a specific law on tourism is a key solution to the problem as it would help set up a strict environmental protection system for the tourism industry.