The Ministry of Water Resources will designate protection zones along the Yangtze River and clarify the responsibilities of managing departments as part of a two-year campaign to tackle illegal projects and revitalize the river’s shorelines.
Vice-Minister of Water Resources Wei Shanzhong told a news conference on Wednesday that the ministry has finished marking out parts of the Yangtze covering more than 1,000 square kilometers of the river’s basin, and it is planning to draw up boundaries for smaller areas to protect shorelines.
Wei said the ministry will revise regulations to further clarify departments’ responsibilities for shoreline protection and utilization. Regular inspections along the river will be enhanced and smart supervision methods, including satellite remote sensing, camera surveillance and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, will be promoted.
During the ministry’s campaign, 2,441 projects along the shorelines were found to have violated laws or regulations, threatening flood control, river stability, drinking water safety and the protection of nature reserves. By last month, the ministry had dismantled or renovated about 99 percent of those projects and cleared 158 kilometers of shoreline.
Nine provinces and municipalities along about 8,300 km of shoreline have been involved in the campaign, including Shanghai, Chongqing and the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Sichuan and Yunnan.
The ministry has cleaned up buildings that occupied ecologically sensitive areas, were built without government approval or occupied shoreline without making the best use of it.
Local governments have transformed such shorelines into grasslands amid the campaign, which was launched in October 2018 but has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry said large numbers of docks, bridges, shipyards, pipelines and drainage outlets built in the Yangtze economic zone since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 have brought economic growth to the area.
In January 2016 and April 2018, President Xi Jinping inspected the Yangtze and called for all-out efforts to protect it, saying there should be no large-scale development beside the river.
Xi called for putting restoration of the river’s ecosystem high on the agenda in developing the Yangtze economic belt.
“The cleanup and renovation of the shoreline is a very tough task,” Wei said. “A large number of issues left decades ago have to be resolved, but many of them involve complicated interests. The ministry will make further plans to move on with the task.”