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Inspection exposes pollution violations

Untreated sewage, illegal fishing plague key water bodies along Yangtze River

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-28 07:56
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Teams from China's high-profile central environmental inspection have exposed a series of violations concerning water pollution control as it forges ahead with a monthlong inspection of seven provincial-level regions along the Yangtze River, with many local authorities rebuked for dereliction of duty and falsification.

Launched on May 7, the latest batch of inspections will prioritize looking into the performance of governments in regions including Yunnan, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan provinces in promoting well-coordinated action to conserve the Yangtze, the country's longest watercourse.

Working under ministerial-level officials, teams of the central environmental inspection report to a central group headed by a vice-premier.

Some cities in Hubei province were criticized for prominent deficiencies in infrastructure for water pollution treatment, according to a media release issued by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, where the office of the inspection is based.

"The direct discharge of domestic sewage remains a serious problem," it said.

The water quality of Houhu Lake in Wuhan, for instance, degraded from Grade IV in 2022 to Grade V last year. Inspectors found that the black and odorous state of the Laobengzhan River and Diaochang Channel, which connects with the lake, has lasted for an extended period of time with local authorities taking no action at all.

China has a five-tier quality system for surface water, with Grade I the best.

The government of Huangpi district in Wuhan, where Houhu is located, not only concealed the fact but also failed to implement effective measures to address the problem, the ministry said. Furthermore, relevant departments of the Wuhan city government had not pressed Huangpi authorities for rectification.

In another case in Xiaogan, also in Hubei, inspectors found that the sewage collection network in the Xiaonan economic development zone did not cover all areas in the zone as required, resulting in the direct discharge of over 10,000 metric tons of domestic wastewater into the Gunzi River.

The violation happened despite Hubei provincial authorities having demanded in 2020 that the direct discharge of sewage drains into the environment be stopped by 2021.

"The Xiaogan government didn't report the problem to relevant authorities at higher levels, and also failed to carry out treatment work in a timely manner," the release said.

Inspectors also found domestic wastewater being directly discharged in the cities of Kunming, Lijiang and Puer in Yunnan.

In Kunming, for example, inspectors found about 130,000 tons of domestic sewage were diverted into the Tanglangchuan River every day for an extended period of time, degrading the water quality to Grade V or worse.

It's not the first time inspections of the seven regions have exposed violations. On May 17, inspection teams exposed a series of violations concerning some key water bodies along the Yangtze.

In the country's largest freshwater lake, Poyang in Jiangxi province, inspectors found that a 10-year fishing moratorium in the Yangtze basin, which went into force in January 2020, has not been rigidly enforced in some areas.

In the Lushan district of Jiujiang, there are still organized groups using drag nets and electric fishing gear, the ministry said. In a protected area for the conservation of the Yangtze finless porpoise, which is known as the "giant panda of the water" and is under top-level State protection, some people still use fishing nets to catch fish.

From 2022 to 2023, five Yangtze finless porpoises were found dead after being stuck in fishing nets and lines in Poyang.

Inspectors exposed the cases in the hope that they can serve as deterrents and effectively facilitate rectification, the ministry said.

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