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River chief system established to push anti-pollution efforts

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-23 07:44

 River chief system established to push anti-pollution efforts

Workers remove rubbish from the Xiuhe River near the center of Xiushui, a county in East China's Jiangxi province. In December, the central government released a document ordering the river chief system, which is linked to performance evaluations of top officials, to be established nationwide by the end of 2018.Hou Liqiang / China Daily

A new protection procedure that promotes better coordination of government departments has improved the quality of China's waterways. Hou Liqiang reports from Xiushui, Jiangxi province.

In November, when Wu Zhiguo, secretary-general of the Xiushui County Winter Swimming Association in Jiangxi province, and his fellow members discovered that slaughterhouse waste was being dumped in the Xiuhe River, where they usually swim, they reported the matter to the local authorities.

Although they didn't expect several government departments to respond immediately, that's what happened; the waste was quickly cleaned up and the owner of the slaughterhouse was detained and fined.

Wu said the water quality in the river has improved a lot, compared with the first half of last year.

"There isn't that much waste in the river now because the government responded to the problem quickly," he said.

River chief system established to push anti-pollution efforts

The change happened at the end of 2015, after Jiangxi established the river chief system, which requires officials at every level of government to take full responsibility for the protection of rivers and lakes in regions under their jurisdiction.

In December, the central government released a document ordering the system, which is linked to the performance evaluations of top officials, to be established nationwide by the end of 2018.

The first national water resources survey, carried out from 2011 to 2013, showed that China has 45,203 rivers, each of which has a drainage area of more than 50 square kilometers, and 2,865 lakes whose average surface area in normal years is at least 1 sq km.

Integrated resources

Kuang Sailin, director of the Xiushui county animal husbandry and fisheries bureau, said the system integrates resources well and has helped to solve thorny problems.

To prevent pollution, livestock farms are prohibited in a radius of 1 km from the Xiuhe River and 500 meters from a tributary in Xiushui.

However, some of the farms were built before the regulation was enacted and a large amount of compensation had to be paid to close or move them, Kuang said.

"Without the river chief system, my department could never have closed or moved those farms because we don't have the money to pay compensation," he said.

"Under the system, the county head is the river chief, and he's in a position to mobilize almost all the county's resources."

Six livestock farms, one of which bred 100,000 pigs every year, were closed, while many others installed new sewage-disposal facilities. The county government paid compensation to those affected, he said.

The central government's document required a bureau to be established for river chiefs at or above county level. The bureau is responsible for specific river protection efforts and also for implementing the river chief's decisions.

All government departments and institutions are required to cooperate with the bureau to carry out protection work, based on their responsibilities.

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