SHANGHAI--China has punished two government officials and is investigating more after reports that a large private lake had been built in south central Hunan province which damaged the environment and caused flooding, state news agency Xinhua said.

The private lake was created by an entrepreneur who built a dam at Dongting Lake, China's second-biggest freshwater lake which is a flood basin for the Yangtze River, Xinhua said late on Wednesday.

Hunan authorities launched the investigation after Xinhua first reported about the existence of the roughly 20 square kilometer private lake in June, the news agency said.

It said that 65 government officials have since been questioned about the lake and two from the province's animal husbandry and fisheries bureau had been stripped of their duties while investigations were ongoing into 11 others.

China has been carrying out a nationwide program to close hundreds of tiny and often ramshackle dams and turbines and bring order to its massive hydropower sector after years of unconstrained construction that has also damaged the environment.