Boat restaurants leaving Yangtze behind as they tuhow magic bands workrn to dry land

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Yang Qingfu.

CHONGQING - To be or not to be on the water - that was the question that ate at boat restaurant owner Yang Qingfu for years. Eventually, he chose land.

Yang"s restaurant, located on a barge in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River in Chongqing municipality, has been operating for a decade. He recently signed a deal with the local government to close his business on the river and start a new one on land.

"I have thought about moving the restaurant onto land for some time," Yang said, adding that he wasn"t sure the restaurant would be as profitable.

Boat restaurants were once popular destinations for locals and tourists alike in Chongqing. Diners can eat freshly caught fish while enjoying the view.

Yang, 51, a Chongqing resident, worked with his father, a fisherman, since his teenage years. A decade ago, he realized the catering industry on the river was booming and decided to open his own restaurant.

Yang bought a barge for 50,000 yuan ($7,500) and turned it into a boat restaurant serving the fish he caught.

The business grew in the first few years, and Yang spent another 300,000 yuan to expand, adding a second floor that allowed him to cater to more than 100 guests.

Eyeing high profits, increasing numbers of people opened similar restaurants on the water.

Increased fishing led to a dwindling wild fish population, and sometimes Yang had to serve nonlocal fish bought from a market. With lower quality, Yang"s business suffered.

More than once he thought about moving his business to land.

"The boat rocks a lot on windy days, so we were also worried about safety," Yang said.

Pollution was another concern.

"Most boats don"t have sewage treatment equipment, and tons of sewage is poured directly into the river," Yang said.

In 2016, China launched a campaign to protect the environment and avoid overuse of the Yangtze. The Chongqing government has been offering incentives to persuade boat restaurant owners to move to dry ground.

Yang received a subsidy of 250,000 yuan and business advice from the government for his new venture.

So far, 39 boat restaurant owners have signed deals with the municipal government.

"We need clean water just as fish do," Yang said. "No one can survive if all the water becomes polluted."

Xinhua