BEIJING - Media reports say that Chaohu city in Anhui province is about to vanish from the map, with authorities to announce on Monday a split into three parts that will be absorbed by neighboring cities.
Modern Express, a Nanjing-based newspaper affiliated with the Xinhua News Agency, reported the impending change on Sunday.
It is said that the official announcement will come on Monday.
On Sunday, a China Daily reporter checked the official website for Anhui province's higher adult education entrance examination application, which is administered by the province's educational authority, and saw information suggesting a change.
When the reporter clicked on the location box to choose "Chaohu city", a pop-up box said: "Under the new administrative division, Wuwei county will be merged into Wuhu city, Hanshan and Hexian counties for Ma'anshan city, Juchao district and Lujiang county for Hefei city.
"The Chaohu city examination zone has been canceled. Please confirm your examination zone according to the new division."
Chaohu, located in central Anhui, has four counties and one district, and it covers 9,423 square kilometers. The city was named after Chaohu Lake, one of five largest freshwater lakes in China, which is in the western part of the city and connects the city with Hefei.
Officially, Chaohu city has a registered population of more than 4.6 million people, although only 3.87 million actually live there, according to the sixth national census taken in 2010.
"The news has been around for almost one month," said Xia Chongfei, a 24-year-old Chaohu resident. His home area will be attached to Wuhu city in South Anhui, according to media reports. He's been away from the city with colleagues for more than a week.
"We were joking that when we got home next week, we would become Wuhu residents," he said.
Shen Yuqin, a 25-year-old Chaohu resident who is now living in Hefei, heard about the news a month ago. She was originally from the Juchao district of Chaohu, which surrounds Chaohu Lake. She learned from the Internet that her home district will be attached to Hefei, the capital city of Anhui.
"Most of my friends are actually not depressed by the news," Shen said. "Hefei is better in terms of basic salaries and social welfare, and we hope that once we belong to Hefei, local people will get more income and enjoy a better city infrastructure. Chaohu hasn't been well developed, compared with Hefei."
But she said old generations of Chaohu, such as her parents, have a sense of loss as they have been living in the city for most of their lives and "the name of the city might just disappear".
According to the news reports, the entire Chaohu Lake will belong to Hefei, which would have only one-third of the lake if there was no such change.
Thus, the capital city is said to be the "biggest winner" of the urban planning change.
The Binhu district of Hefei is in an area closest to Chaohu, and it overlooks the lake.
"Although the news is sill not confirmed, I think it is at least better for the ecological improvement of the Chaohu Lake," said Hong Ling, who works for the government of Binhu district.
"The lake has been suffering from blue-green algae for many years. Once Hefei takes charge of it, the city can make the effort to turn the lake into a cleaner place."
Cheng Biding, a professor who took part in the regional plan for Anhui, told Modern Express that the change in city planning aimed to help small cities such as Chaohu improve. Both Wuhu and Ma'anshan are among the best-developed cities of Anhui, ranked by GDP growth.
"If the plan is carried out, Hefei will be the largest city of Anhui, and it will have more resources. It is also good for its competitiveness compared with more economically developed cities such as Nanjing," Cheng added.