China to appoint river chiefs nationwide to protect its waters

Dec.12,2016

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Photo taken on Nov. 23, 2016 shows a fog-wrapped bridge on the Yangtze River in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, Nov. 23, 2016.    (Xinhua/Ke Hao) 

China will appoint local government heads as river chiefs across the nation to clean up and protect its water resources, said guidelines published by Chinese central authorities Sunday.

Much as mayors and county heads are responsible for their beats, river chiefs will be responsible for the management and protection of the watercourses, according to a document forwarded by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.

The central government expects to turn such practice into a nationwide mechanism by the end of 2018, said the document.

China firstly appointed local government officials as river chiefs in 2007 to address pollution woes of a blue algae outbreak in Taihu Lake, Jiangsu Province.

The practice was later adopted in several regions rich in water resources to ensure strong enforcement of environmental policies and enhance coordination.

Government officials will be hired as river chiefs at provincial, city, county and township levels, and heads of provincial regions will be general chiefs that are responsible for all rivers and lakes in the region, according to the document.

For large rivers and lakes that span across regions, river chiefs will be responsible for different parts of the water bodies and cooperate on management.

Responsibilities of the river chiefs include water resource protection, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration. Their job performance will be assessed and they will be held accountable if environmental damage occurs in the water bodies they take charge of, said the document.

Information including names and responsibilities of the river chiefs will be made public to ensure public supervision, it said.

The Chinese government has released a national plan on environmental improvements for the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020) earlier this month, which set detailed tasks to cleanse polluted air, water and soil so as to promote ecological civilization and improve its ecological situation.

The country's environmental protection still lags behind its economic status, and decades of fast growth have left the country saddled with problems such as smog and contaminated waterways and soil.

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