To better water protection
written by Liu Zhuo
There are numerous rivers and lakes in China, including a total of 45,203 rivers with a catchment area above 500,000 square kilometers and 2,865 natural lakes with a perennial surface area above one square kilometer.
China has a long history of water control and management. In ancient times, the administrators appointed special officials in charge of river affairs. During the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) governor of Shu prefecture, Li Bing ordered the building of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System in today’s Sichuan province in Southwest China, which is a famous example of water conservancy and could be regarded as the precursor of the river chief system.
Dujiangyan irrigation system
With the rapid economic and social development, some new issues have occurred in management and protection of rivers and lakes in China: the emissions of pollutants into rivers and lakes remain high in some areas, while encroachment of river courses, reclamation of lakes and illegal sand mining often occur in some places.
To solve the problems, in some areas, government leaders at the four levels – province, prefecture, county and township – serve as river chiefs, and the province level is led by general river chiefs, to manage, protect and govern rivers through inter-agency coordination and cooperation.
On the basis of the practice of some provinces/autonomous regions/municipalities in the last ten years, in December 2016, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council promulgated the opinions on the All-Around Implementation of the River Chief System. By the end of 2018, the River Chief System will be implemented all around for rivers and lakes nationwide, with providing an institutional guarantee to maintain the healthy life of rivers and lakes and to achieve their sustainable use.
The river chief system today is a management system for rivers and lakes and is linked to the accountability system of environmental protection and performance evaluations of top officials. River Chief is the first person responsible for river management, and his/her main duty is to urge the river chiefs at the lower level and relevant agencies to complete the ecological protection tasks of rivers and to coordinate to solve major issues in river protection and management.