For over ten thousand tourists at the first
Qinghai Lake Sand Sculpture Festival, sand on the banks of Qinghai Lake in
Haiyan, Northwest China's Qinghai Province are just another tourist attraction,
showing off the beauty of the lakeside area.
The fact is, the sand are from
the dunes south of the lake which are moving at a speed of 5.9- to 8.6
meters each year, and growing about 20 meters higher every year. The annual loss
of water in the lake adds up to some 436 million cubic meters and up until now,
20 square kilometers has turned to desert.
A visitor takes a photo
of a sand scupture during the opening of the first Qinghai Lake Sand
Scupture Festival in Haiyan, Northwest China's Qinghai Province, July 8,
Meanwhile, the lake currently covers an area of 4,200 square kilometers, but
in the 1950s, it was over 4,500 square kilometers.
Experts points out if Qinghai Lake continues to shrink at the current speed,
its current average depth of 18 meters will disappear within two centuries.
Darkness over the beautiful pool
Located at an altitude of over 3.6 kilometers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau,
Qinghai Lake is the largest inland sea and salt-water lake in the country. It
also used to be both a huge natural mirror reflecting the beautiful landscape of
western China and was a natural shield sheltering the vast east area of the lake
from turning into desert.
As a national natural reserve, Qinghai Lake was listed as one of the Wetlands
of International Importance in 1992. But due to global warming and human
activity, this natural ecosystem is under threat. Over 1.87 million mu (about
1,250 square kilometers) of land have become desert so far, the third largest
desert area in this province.
According to the Qinghai Tourism Bureau, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway will bring
400,000 new visitors to Qinghai Lake every year. And statistics show, the
population around the lake has grown to 90,000 from 20,000 in the 1950s, due to
farming around the lake area.
But over 20,000 square kilometers
of rich grasslands around the lake have nearly halved and several small lakes
have separated from the main lake by the invading sands.
Visitors ride on camels
in the lake area, July 10 2007. Camels have become a source of income for
local farmers these years, though they only appear in deserts.
There are 213 kinds of wildlife living around the lake area, including 37
under first and second protection like snow leopards, Tibetan wild donkeys and
black-necked cranes. But over 15 percent of the precious wildlife is facing
Sticks of dead wild trees are seen among the sand, July 10
"Sun Lake", one of the lakes separated lakes from the main
one, is surrounded by desert, July 10 2007. Since the 1960s, the water
level of Qinghai Lake has kept falling, with an annual loss of 436
thousand cubic meters of water. [newsphoto]
"The environmental situation around Qinghai Lake has changed drastically or
even deteriorated, which is directly related to excess reclamation and
overgrazing," said Yin Hong, a wetland expert from the State Forestry
Trudge along the road of rectification
Faced with the severe situation, the local government started to throw tens
of millions of yuan at the problem since 2001.
As an under-developed province in
the country, Qinghai started several projects like turning farmland to forests
and grasslands, controlling desertification and recovering grassland and fishing
areas to rebuild the devastated environment.
Bird Island in Qinghai
Lake taken by Zhan Guoguang in May 1984.[photo.bokee.com]
The overall deterioration has not yet been contained, though partly improved
with hard work. The government has promised to invest another 6.9 billion yuan
to completely restore the fragile ecology around the lake.
Urgently appealed by some Qinghai NPC deputies early this year, a draft
statute of environmental protection around Qinghai Lake was promulgated by the
Qinghai provincial government and will go into force on August 1 this year.
Whether Qinghai Lake, or the 'blue sea', will return to its previous blue
water and sky is a wait-and-see concern for environmentalists and every visitor
to Qinghai Lake.