Authorities in Yunnan Province in southwest China have ordered the demolition of more than 1,000 villas and flats that have turned a nature conservation area into a "concrete mountain".
A month-long investigation by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment found that homes had been built on more than 90% of the Changyao Mountain on the south side of Lake Dianchi.
The lake is part of the city of Kunming’s Jinning District. An article on the website of Kunming’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said that the real estate development had "seriously affected the integrity of the ecosystem of Dianchi Lake" and that development has occurred in the lake’s nature reserve.
The article commented: "The relevant person in charge of the Kunming Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection said he would resolutely investigate and deal with the problems of ecological damage and environmental pollution, such as the use of power for personal gain, and … promote effective rectification of problems."
Lake Dianchi, which covers 300 sq km, has already suffered serious collateral damage from China’s economic growth. The water itself is unfit for human, agricultural or industrial use. Only one species of native fish is thought to survive, along with two non-native species, the gold fish and the Asian swamp eel.
Action by the Chinese authorities to demolish illegal development is a recurring story.
The most prominent example in recent times was the decision in 2019 to demolish 2,000 villas built in the Qinling Mountains in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Here developers bought land from a local village without getting official approval, claiming that they intended to build gardens.
And in March last year, authorities in Qingdao, a coastal city in China’s Shandong Province, knocked down dozens of beachfront villas that were classified by the local government as in violation of environmental regulations. This removed more than 40 luxury houses with a combined value of around $350m.
Image: Lake Dianchi’s nickname is "sparkling pearl set in mountains" (I, Emitchan/CC BY 2.5)