Strik­ing a bal­ance

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment lead­ers must also pro­tect rivers, lakes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By HOU LIQIANG houliqiang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The ap­point­ment of lo­cal gov­ern­ment heads as chiefs of the coun­try’s rivers and lakes will help solve the predica­ment in which lo­cal gov­ern­ments must strike a bal­ance be­tween eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, of­fi­cials said on Mon­day.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment has de­cided to es­tab­lish a na­tion­wide river and lake chief sys­tem that will cover all rivers and lakes by the end of 2018. The chiefs will take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the man­age­ment and pro­tec­tion of the coun­try’s wa­ter bod­ies.

While heads of pro­vin­cial-level re­gions will be gen­eral chiefs re­spon­si­ble for all rivers and lakes in the re­gion, other top of­fi­cials at pro­vin­cial, city, county and town­ship lev­els will act as river chiefs re­spon­si­ble for dif­fer­ent parts of the wa­ter bod­ies, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment re­leased by the gen­eral of­fices of the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and the State Coun­cil.

Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the river and lake chiefs will in­clude wa­ter re­source pro­tec­tion, pol­lu­tion pre­ven­tion, bank man­age­ment and eco­log­i­cal restora­tion. Their per­for­mance will be eval­u­ated, and they will be held ac­count­able for en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age that oc­curs in the wa­ter bod­ies un­der their care.

One of the two top pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials, the Party sec­re­tary or gov­er­nor, will be ap­pointed as the gen­eral chief, and of­fi­cials above de­part­ment head level of each level of gov­ern­ment will act as river or lake chiefs, Zhou Xuewen, vice-min­is­ter of wa­ter re­sources, said on Mon­day.

“The per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion stan­dards in dif­fer­ent re­gions will be drafted dif­fer­ently in ac­cor­dance with their spe­cific prob­lems. In some re­gions, the prob­lem is the ex­ces­sive recla­ma­tion of wa­ter bod­ies for de­vel­op­ment use. For oth­ers, rivers or lakes are se­ri­ously pol­luted,” he said.

Zhang Bo, di­rec­tor of the De­part­ment of Wa­ter En­vi­ron­ment Man­age­ment of the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, hailed the river and lake chief sys­tem as one that could “tackle tough chal­lenges”.

“The big­gest chal­lenge we meet in wa­ter pol­lu­tion pre­ven­tion and con­trol is the un­bal­anced in­dus­trial struc­ture in some re­gions. Many lo­cal gov­ern­ments are fac­ing a choice of de­vel­op­ing the econ­omy or pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment,” he told the news con­fer­ence.

The sys­tem un­der which top of­fi­cials are ac­count­able as river chiefs will help ad­just the in­dus­trial struc­ture and bet­ter pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment while de­vel­op­ing, he added.

Such chiefs were first ap­pointed in 2007 to tackle a blue al­gae out­break in Taihu Lake in Jiangsu province. Eight pro­vin­cial re­gions have al­ready adopted the sys­tem.

The first na­tional wa­ter re­source sur­vey from 2011 to 2013 shows, China has 45,203 rivers, each of which has a drainage area of more than 50 square kilo­me­ters, and 2,865 lakes whose av­er­age wa­ter area in nor­mal years is at least 1 square kilo­me­ter.

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