China sacks officials for construction of problematic private lake

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - China has sacked 16 government officials and is investigating several more over the unauthorised construction of a reportedly 20 sq km private lake which has damaged the environment and caused flooding.

A businessman created the lake in Hunan province, south-central China, by building barriers at Dongting Lake, the country's second-biggest freshwater lake and a flood basin for the Yangtze River, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Wednesday (Sept 12) without elaborating on the lake's purpose.

The Hunan government, in a statement, said the businessman - who had carried out contract work for local authorities since 2001 - began construction in 2008 and in 2014 came to the attention of officials who failed to rectify the situation.

The case comes amid a central government campaign to eliminate hundreds of tiny and often substandard dams and turbines to bring order to China's massive hydropower sector after years of unconstrained construction.

Xinhua first reported on the lake in June. The government said it dismantled the barriers the same month and has since questioned 65 officials over the matter.

It said it dismissed two officials from the province's animal husbandry and fisheries bureau as well as the deputy mayor of Yiyang, a city close to the lake. It said investigations into 11 others were ongoing.

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