The Yangtze River: All-out Pro­tec­tion Ef­forts

China Pictorial (English) - - Contents - Text by Dong Zhan­feng

After decades of ex­ploita­tion, the con­flict between de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ests and pro­tec­tion in­ter­ests along the Yangtze River has reached a cli­max, and the river’s eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment now faces a grim sit­u­a­tion. Ex­plor­ing and im­ple­ment­ing a green de­vel­op­ment mode for the river has be­come im­per­a­tive for the coun­try.

T he Yangtze River, the long­est river in China and the third-long­est in the world, fos­ters a unique and rich ecosys­tem. It is China’s na­tional strate­gic wa­ter source and an area con­cen­trated with eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity shel­ters. The Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt cov­ers 11 Chi­nese mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and prov­inces in­clud­ing Shang­hai, Jiangsu, Zhe­jiang, Sichuan, and Yun­nan across a to­tal area of 2.05 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters. A key Chi­nese eco­nomic belt, it is home to a mas­sive pop­u­la­tion and yields an im­pres­sive to­tal out­put value, both ex­ceed­ing 40 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal.

Based on sci­en­tific re­search and anal­y­sis of the Yangtze River’s eco­log­i­cal and eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has set the tone for the river’s green de­vel­op­ment. “We should raise restora­tion of the Yangtze River’s eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment high on the agenda and do ev­ery­thing we can to pro­tect it, start­ing with a ban on large-scale le de­vel­op­ment of the river,” Xi said. d.

On July 13, 2017, China’s Min­istry of Ecol­ogy and En­vi­ron­ment (for­merly Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion), Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form m Com­mis­sion and Min­istry of Wa­ter er Re­sources re­leased a jointly com­piled eco-en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion n plan for the en­tire Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt through pro­mot­ing ga a new pat­tern of green de­vel­op­ment. nt.

Six Ma­jor Chal­lenges

Cur­rently, the Yangtze River’s overde­vel­op­ment stands out. Con­sid­er­able chal­lenges must

be over­come to achieve green de­vel­op­ment.

First, the ar­eas along the Yangtze River now re­ceive in­ad­e­quate over­all pro­tec­tion. Over the past two decades, the to­tal area of cities and towns along the river has ex­panded by more than 39 per­cent. The river’s wa­ter­front ar­eas have wit­nessed ex­ces­sive de­vel­op­ment. The de­vel­op­ment and uti­liza­tion rate for its main­streams and wa­ter­fronts at the lower reaches has reached 40 per­cent. Rapid ur­ban­iza­tion and vig­or­ous de­vel­op­ment have caused dras­tic changes to the river’s ecosys­tem, re­sult­ing in ecosys­tem frag­men­ta­tion and degra­da­tion of its ser­vice func­tion. Ar­eas of farm­land, for­est, grass­land and wet­land are shrink­ing.

Sec­ond, the per­sist­ing high vol­ume of pol­lu­tion emis­sions poses prob­lems. The Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt is plagued by ex­ces­sive and wide­spread pol­lu­tion. Waste­water dis­charge along the eco­nomic belt ac­counts for more than 40 per­cent of the coun­try’s to­tal. Chem­i­cal oxy­gen de­mand on per unit area and emis­sion in­ten­si­ties of am­mo­nia ni­tro­gen, sul­fur diox­ide, oxyni­tride and volatile or­ganic com­pound in the re­gion are 1.5 to 2 times the coun­try’s av­er­age lev­els.

Third, it is dif­fi­cult to co­or­di­nate and de­sign com­pre­hen­sive plans to pro­tect the eco­nomic belt’s wa­ter qual­ity, wa­ter yield and wa­ter ecol­ogy. The im­ple­men­ta­tion of hy­dro-elec­tric and wa­ter trans­fer projects along the Yangtze River’s main­streams and trib­u­taries has greatly in­flu­enced wa­ter re­source al­lo­ca­tion and the eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment of wa­ter trans­fer ar­eas. How­ever, ef­fec­tive co­or­di­na­tion mech­a­nisms and mea­sures have been lack­ing.

Fourth, the clash between re­gional de­vel­op­ment in­ter­ests and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion is glar­ing. Pol­lu­tion is se­vere in ar­eas in­clud­ing the Yangtze River Delta, the mid­dle reaches of Yangtze River and the Chengdu-chongqing ur­ban ag­glom­er­a­tion.

Fifth, var­i­ous prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along the Yangtze River con­trast greatly in terms of green de­vel­op­ment level. The many prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along the river have widely vary­ing de­vel­op­ment con­di­tions in terms of re­sources, en­vi­ron­ment, trans­porta­tion and in­dus­try. The de­vel­op­ment gap between dif­fer­ent re­gions is large. In­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment in ar­eas of the river’s up­per, mid­dle and lower reaches hasn’t been well co­or­di­nated, and in­dus­tries are usu­ally ho­moge­nous.

And fi­nally, sup­port­ing sys­tems and mech­a­nisms de­signed for the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt’s com­pre­hen­sive man­age­ment need to be fur­ther im­proved. Clearly, de­sign­ing a com­pre­hen­sive and cross-de­part­men­tal man­age­ment sys­tem for the eco­nomic belt is a tough task. The cur­rent co­or­di­na­tion mech­a­nism is not sound enough.

Ecol­ogy First and Co­or­di­nated Pro­tec­tion

Through tire­less ef­forts in­clud­ing com­pil­ing and is­su­ing the eco-en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion plan for the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt, the Chi­nese govern­ment has made the gen­eral prin­ci­ple, tar­gets, and roadmap of the eco­nomic belt’s green de­vel­op­ment strat­egy very clear.

The green de­vel­op­ment strat­egy for the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt fea­tures four ma­jor points:

First, an “ecol­ogy first” strat­egy will be im­ple­mented. The nat­u­ral law of the eco­nomic belt should be re­spected. For long-term ben­e­fits, the eco­nomic belt’s eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion should be a top pri­or­ity, which will pro­mote the for­ma­tion of a re­source-sav­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly in­dus­trial struc­ture, growth pat­tern and con­sump­tion model.

Sec­ond, a sys­tem­atic pro­tec­tion strat­egy will be im­ple­mented. With the Yangtze River’s main­streams and trib­u­taries serv­ing as veins, sys­tem­atic man­age­ment of moun­tains, wa­ters, forests, farm­lands and grass­lands along the river will be re­in­forced. Eco­log­i­cal reg­u­la­tion of wa­ter con­ser­vancy and hy­dropower projects will be car­ried out. An in­te­grated re­gional en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion sys­tem will

be formed to pro­mote sys­tem­atic and com­pre­hen­sive pro­tec­tion.

Third, a space con­trol and man­age­ment strat­egy will be im­ple­mented. Based on the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt’s eco­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal fea­tures, var­i­ous man­age­ment and con­trol mea­sures to pro­tect wa­ter, the at­mos­phere and the ecol­ogy by tar­get­ing dif­fer­ent re­gions will be re­in­forced to build an eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity pat­tern. Stricter reg­u­la­tions will be im­ple­mented to en­sure that all eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to the Yangtze River are reg­u­lated by tar­geted en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and man­age­ment mea­sures.

Fourth, an in­sti­tu­tional in­no­va­tion strat­egy will be im­ple­mented. Greater im­por­tance will be placed on in­sti­tu­tional re­forms of the eco­nomic belt’s com­pre­hen­sive man­age­ment, and a mech­a­nism for eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion of the Yangtze River fea­tur­ing ex­ten­sive ef­forts, joint man­age­ment and shared ben­e­fits will be cre­ated.

To re­al­ize these goals, the Chi­nese govern­ment has pro­posed two strate­gic goals for 2020 and 2030, re­spec­tively, which are based on sys­tem­atic anal­y­sis of sci­en­tific find­ings. The 2020 goal aims at marked im­prove­ment of the eco­nomic belt’s eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. The 2030 goal aims at suf­fi­cient eco­log­i­cal flow of the Yangtze River’s main­streams and trib­u­taries. By then, the qual­ity of the wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment, air, and wa­ter ecol­ogy along the river should be sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter. Ser­vice func­tion of the river’s eco­log­i­cal sys­tem will be greatly im­proved, and its over­all en­vi­ron­ment will be more beau­ti­ful.

Con­crete Mea­sures and Longterm Mech­a­nisms

China has im­ple­mented var­i­ous man­age­ment and con­trol strate­gies and mea­sures on eco­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion for the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt. Lim­its on the usage of wa­ter re­sources have been set and eco­log­i­cal red lines and en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity bot­tom lines along the eco­nomic belt have been spec­i­fied. Neg­a­tive lists on in­dus­trial ad­mis­sions have been pro­mul­gated. At the same time, the size and scale of cities and towns along the eco­nomic belt have been care­fully con­trolled with wa­ter con­ser­vancy taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. Ur­ban con­struc­tion and re­gions ab­sorb­ing in­dus­trial trans­fer are not al­lowed to sur­pass their lim­its on wa­ter re­source car­ry­ing ca­pac­i­ties. Spe­cific man­age­ment and con­trol strate­gies and mea­sures are as fol­lows:

First, lim­its on the usage of wa­ter re­sources have been set. Presently, the lim­its on the usage of wa­ter re­sources in var­i­ous re­gions along the Yangtze River have been de­ter­mined to pro­mote optimization and ad­just­ment of re­gional eco­nomic lay­outs and struc­tures. Uni­fied man­age­ment of wa­ter re­sources has been re­in­forced. Dual con­trols of both to­tal wa­ter con­sump­tion vol­ume and in­ten­sity have been im­ple­mented. An in­di­ca­tor sys­tem on to­tal wa­ter con­sump­tion con­trol cov­er­ing three ad­min­is­tra­tive lev­els, namely prov­inces, cities, and coun­ties, has been es­tab­lished. And the to­tal wa­ter con­trol tar­gets have been bro­ken into smaller tar­gets for dif­fer­ent re­gions and in­dus­tries.

Sec­ond, bot­tom lines for wa­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal qual­ity man­age­ment have been set. Pro­tec­tion of wa­ter re­sources is now high on agenda. Pro­tec­tion of head­wa­ters has been fur­ther re­in­forced. More em­pha­sis has been placed on treat­ing wa­ter bod­ies with qual­ity lower than Grade V, the worst ac­cord­ing to China’s wa­ter qual­ity grad­ing sys­tem.

Third, eco­log­i­cal red lines have e been des­ig­nated and im­ple­mented. . Ar­eas that carry im­por­tant ser­vice e func­tions to the eco­log­i­cal se­cu­rity y of the Yangtze River have been de­sig­gnated for pro­tec­tion with red lines. s. A space gov­er­nance sys­tem has been een es­tab­lished.

Build­ing a green de­vel­op­ment pat­tern along the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt re­quires the mo­bi­liza­iza­tion of var­i­ous de­part­ments, par­ties es and stake­hold­ers. A long-term and d ef­fec­tive mech­a­nism is needed to achieve this goal:

First, re­form on the eco­nomic c belt’s com­pre­hen­sive gov­er­nance sys­tem should go deeper. Wa­ter-re­lated ed en­vi­ron­men­tal su­per­vi­sion and law w en­force­ment, which are now scat­tered ered in the hands of var­i­ous de­part­ments, nts, should be cen­tral­ized and uni­fied. A more ef­fec­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal su­per­ervi­sion and law en­force­ment agency y for the eco­nomic belt should be es­stab­lished. Uni­fied plan­ning, stan­dards, ards, en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment, su­per­vi­sion and law en­force­ment should be im­ple­mented.

Sec­ond, the joint pre­ven­tion and con­trol mech­a­nism should be fur­ther im­proved to pro­mote re­gional onal co­or­di­na­tion and in­te­gra­tion. The role of wa­ter­shed man­age­ment agen­cies should be given full play. En­vi­ron­men­tal su­per­vi­sion and law w en­force­ment agen­cies should be es­tab­lished on ba­sis of wa­ter­shed. Trans-de­part­ment, cross-re­gional and cross-basin su­per­vi­sion and emer­gen­gency co­or­di­na­tion should be fur­ther re­in­forced. A co­or­di­na­tion mech­a­nism sm on en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and an early warn­ing sys­tem cov­er­ing re­lated ated prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties along the eco­nomic belt should be es­tab­lished. ed.

Third, mon­i­tor­ing, early warn­ing ing

and as­sess­ment of en­vi­ron­men­tal bear­ing ca­pac­ity should be car­ried out. The en­vi­ron­men­tal ca­pac­ity of the eco­nomic belt should be des­ig­nated. Reg­u­lar as­sess­ments of en­vi­ron­men­tal bear­ing ca­pac­ity need to be car­ried out. An early warn­ing con­trol line and re­sponse line should be set. For ar­eas dis­charg­ing pol­lu­tion ex­ceed­ing or near their bear­ing ca­pac­i­ties, early warn­ing alerts should be is­sued and re­stric­tive mea­sures should be taken.

Fourth, en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ments should be pro­moted and im­ple­mented. When mak­ing de­vel­op­ment plans for re­gions along the eco­nomic belt, en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment should be em­ployed. Con­trol re­quire­ments such as those on space, to­tal vol­ume and emis­sions should be made clear. The en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment re­view opin­ions should be used as an im­por­tant ref­er­ence for de­ci­sion mak­ing.

Fifth, a strate­gic eval­u­a­tion and as­sess­ment sys­tem should be es­tab­lished. For im­por­tant strate­gic tasks such as re­in­forc­ing eco­log­i­cal red lines, mea­sures in­clud­ing track­ing anal­y­sis, su­per­vi­sion, in­spec­tion and re­view should be strength­ened. For prov­inces and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that fail to pass the eval­u­a­tion, rel­e­vant pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials should be sanc­tioned and ef­forts must be in­ten­si­fied to ad­dress per­sist­ing prob­lems.

Sixth, a mech­a­nism for eco­log­i­cal com­pen­sa­tion should be es­tab­lished. A mech­a­nism for eco­log­i­cal com­pen­sa­tion in­volv­ing de­vel­op­ment ar­eas, ben­e­fited ar­eas and con­ser­va­tion ar­eas along the Yangtze River Eco­nomic Belt should be es­tab­lished. The cen­tral govern­ment should adopt mea­sures such as in­creas­ing its gen­eral trans­fer pay­ments and us­ing spe­cial trans­fer pay­ments to pay out “re­wards” in­stead of sub­si­dies. Con­struc­tions of projects such as sup­port­ing net­works and pipe­lines for sewage and sludge treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties should be given full sup­port.

Sev­enth, an eco­nomic pol­icy mech­a­nism cov­er­ing the eco­nomic belt’s wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment gov­er­nance should be built. Wa­ter rights within ar­eas along the Yangtze River should be de­fined and al­lo­cated. A trans­ac­tion mode for wa­ter rights between dif­fer­ent re­gions and reaches along the river should be set.

June 13, 2018: The Yangtze River in the evening, Wuhan. IC

May 8, 2017: The Huangbo River Wet­land in Yichang City, Hubei Prov­ince, boasts a beau­ti­ful eco­log­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment. The Huangbo River is a trib­u­tary of the Yangtze. VCG

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