Location: Xichang City, Sichuan Province, China

Client: Wide Horizon Investment Group, Chengdu

Xichang City and adjacent Qionghai Lake are located in a rural district of southern Sichuan Province. This burgeoning area is an important stop along a major transportation corridor between the growing cities of Chengdu and Kunming. It is also lies directly adjacent to China’s popular Shangri-la tourism region.

At one time Qionghai Lake was one of China’s most beautiful and unspoiled lakes, and the surrounding Lushan Mountains are still preserved as a National Park. Over recent decades, uncontrolled runoff from logging on the adjacent hills and poor farming practices on the upstream slopes have polluted and shrunk the once-pristine lake. A high speed railway and national freeway are now under construction in the adjacent Anning Valley, bringing a surge in growth to Xichang City. This new development pressure now threatens to further compromise the lake environment.

The master plan addresses the rapidly growing tourism and recreation development pressures on Qionghai Lake and its neighboring agricultural valleys, providing strategic opportunities for economic growth while protecting these precious environmental assets.

The 40,000 hectare (98,842 acres) master plan proposes to redirect city growth to allow restoration of the lake’s environment and to optimize benefits of the lake. City growth is directed away from the lake and toward the economic attractions of the new freeway, high speed rail and airport transportation facilities. The plan also proposes the Dong River Biodiversity Corridor, a green-belt barrier to stop city growth now moving toward the lake while providing a major new park and waterscape for the city’s residents.

Within the lake watershed, the plan proposes strict controls on forestry and farming practices to achieve lake environmental restoration. These include management practices and techniques for restoring stream habitats as bio-diversity corridors, controlling water runoff speeds, and filtering agricultural pollutants. This strategic management is essential to maintaining environmental gains and restoring the scenic qualities that will make this area a favored eco-tourism destination. At the shoreline, a “final filter” system is proposed by re-creating the extensive wetlands that once lined the lake and supported a fabled fisheries industry and cuisine. To improve water quality and habitat conditions within the lake, the plan proposes to expand the surface area to approximate its recent historic size.

Proposed new developments in the vicinity of the lake will be eco-tourism oriented villages. The plan organizes these in small low-density clusters that are held well away from the shoreline and focused instead on the new bays and inlets created by the lake’s expansion. The lake’s shoreline will be planted with new forest bands interspersed with open fields to retain the historic appearance of the lake. Pedestrian and bicycle paths inland from the wetlands will allow visitors to enjoy the lake.