Yangtze cleaner than ever thanks to concerted action

Photo taken on May 13, 2021 shows Yangtze alligators at a release point of the Anhui Chinese alligator national nature reserve in Jingxian county, East China's Anhui province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China has made great progress in conserving and restoring the ecosystem of the Yangtze River in its wide-ranging efforts to protect Asia's longest watercourse, according to Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment.

In 2020, the quality of water at all monitored sections along the river's main stream rated at or above Grade II, an unprecedented result, and the second highest level in the country's five-tier assessment system for grading surface water, the Minister said, as he delivered a report on the protection of Yangtze to the ongoing session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress on Monday.

The achievement was possible thanks to a series of measures taken to curb pollutants discharged into the river last year.

Huang said that 558 plants producing hazardous chemical in densely-populated areas in the Yangtze River Economic Belt were either upgraded or relocated. All outdated chemical production sites within a kilometer from the Yangtze's main stream have also been shut down.

The Yangtze River Economic Belt covers all but two of the 11 regions the Yangtze flows through, with Qinghai province and the Tibet autonomous region being the exceptions. It also includes Zhejiang and Guizhou provinces, which are home to tributaries of the Yangtze.

Aside from enhancing wastewater management in major industrial parks, efforts have been made to prevent pollutants in the mining sector from entering the river. Pollution control work has been completed in 1,618 tailings ponds in the basin, out of a total of 1,641.

"Accelerated efforts have been made to address the shortfall in collecting and disposing of domestic wastewater," Huang noted. "All cities along the Yangtze's main artery are now served by concentrated wastewater disposal facilities."

Almost 24,000 sewage draining exits that directly discharged urban waste wastewater in the basin have been removed, he continued.

Huang said authorities have effectively curbed illegal sand mining along main body of the river thanks to a special campaign jointly launched by several government bodies. Meanwhile, 2,431 projects that illegally encroached on the Yangtze were rectified, which helped restore 158 kilometers of shoreline.