New lake chiefs to clean up the polluted waters

China will appoint "lake chiefs" to tackle water pollution, drawing on the successful introduction of "river chiefs" last year.

China will appoint “lake chiefs” to tackle water pollution, drawing on the successful introduction of “river chiefs” last year.

On Monday, the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th Party central committee held its first meeting.

They approved the new measure and other practical initiatives to deepen reform.

Lake chiefs have responsibilities similar to those of river chiefs, who are tasked with resource protection, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration.

Lake chiefs will have their performance assessed and they will be held accountable for environmental damages to bodies of water under their supervision.

The introduction of lake chiefs aims to address bodies of water not covered by the river chiefs. 

This year, central China’s Hubei Province and east China’s Zhejiang Province began pilot programs.

Observers said the new measure underscored the top leadership’s determination to clean up the environment after decades of breakneck economic growth left much of China’s rivers and lakes seriously contaminated by factory waste and agricultural fertilizer.

China has appointed about 200,000 river chiefs at the provincial, city, county and township levels to combat pollution.

The results are showing: Zhejiang Province has eliminated bodies of black and odorous water, and it has vowed to deal with any water below Grade V, the lowest level of China’s system of grading water quality.

Last year, about 73.4 percent of inland waters met national standards, up from 70.8 percent in 2015 and 67.5 percent in 2014, meeting the yearly targets, said the Ministry of Water Resources.

But the task remained challenging in some regions, said the ministry. 

Complaints still arise about worsening water quality in some areas, the destruction of aquatic ecosystems, and substandard drinking water.

More than 70 percent of the water in seven major river valleys — including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers — should reach Grade III or higher by 2020, according to a 2015 action plan.

At the leading group’s meeting on Monday, they passed a guideline on the selection and management of officials working in poverty-stricken regions to help select officials who are able to promote poverty alleviation, deal with lackadaisical management and tackle undesirable work practices.

This is an important move in enacting targeted poverty relief measures, following the Party’s pledge to overcome poverty at its 19th national congress.

Poverty relief is always high on China’s agenda. The country has vowed to eliminate poverty by 2020. Since the start of the reform and the country’s opening up to the world, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty.

More than 60 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the past five years in China, with the poverty rate dropping from 10.2 percent to under 4 percent.

As China heads towards a poverty-free future, its targeted poverty relief measures would offer answers to the world’s development problems, said Du Xiaoshan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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