Coastal city in Eastern China makes strides in ecological progress
File photo shows the Longtangou reservoir in Rizhao City, east China's Shandong province. [Photo: Chinaplus]
Local residents in a city in Shandong are taking-to-heart an environmental philosophy promoted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with strict new measures now in-place to curb water pollution.
In promoting environmental protection in a speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping once coined the phrase - "Clean water and lush mountains are priceless assets."
The Chaobai River in the city of Rizhao in Shandong is one of that community's biggest assets.
Li Bin lives in the Chaohe region of Rizhao where the Chaobai River flows through.
He says the steps being taken to clean up the Chaobai have turned the once-dangerous river into a recreational area for the locals.
"Years ago, the village was often hit by floods. When the flood season came, almost a third of the village was normally inundated. With a series of measures to clean up the river and tackle environment pollution, the area is seldom hit by flooding now. The local environment has improved a lot after local authorities began cracking down on pollution. Local residents now spend their leisure time along the banks of the river at night."
Since 2016, local authorities in Rizhao have been fighting water pollution on the major river branches that create the Chaobai.
Zhu Jianjian, a senior official with local water department, says they're not resting on their current successes.
"Since last year, we've been implementing a project to tackle water pollution and have mapped out a five year plan to help it continue. Total investment in the clean-up project could reach nearly 5.5 billion yuan. We have around a thousand kilometers of waterways to clean up. Right now we've managed to clean up around one-quarter of that."
The Chinese government has become adamant that it’s no longer going to put economic growth ahead of the environment.
However, it's going to take some time to reverse decades of damage brought on by negligence and indifference.
The Chen Tonghe village, with two major rivers flowing through it, lies upstream of the Rizhao reservoir.
Local official Wu Defeng says that protect the ecological environment along the rivers, local authorities have closed 500 factories which were once major contributors to local GDP growth, but were also major sources of water pollution.
"Since last year, we have implemented the "river chief system." Senior officials of the town now act as river chiefs and are personally responsible for river pollution controls."
The "river chiefs" concept will see local officials be personally held accountable for any environmental damage in the bodies of water they oversee.
China's top legislature has also passed a revised law on water pollution prevention and controls which will go into effect at the start of next year.
Beyond codifying the "river chiefs" concept, the new law will also increase fines for polluters, with a particular focus on waste-water and agricultural run-off.