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National water strategy to focus more on conservation

By Hou Liqiang Source: China Daily Updated: 2023-04-25


Volunteers and sanitation workers clean up a river in Hai'an city, Jiangsu province, June 14, 2022. [Photo/IC]

Rather than concentrating chiefly on controlling pollution, China plans to focus more on the conservation of aquatic ecosystems as it endeavors to improve the governance of its water environments, according to a recent guideline.

The goal is to raise the proportion of surface water of fairly good quality to 85 percent by 2025, an increase of 1.6 percentage points from 2020, according to the Guideline on Water Ecology and Environmental Protection in Major River Basins.

Unveiled by five national departments, including the Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the National Development and Reform Commission on Friday, the document also said that China plans to eliminate surface water below Grade V quality by 2025.

About 0.6 percent of surface water in the country was registered as being below Grade V in 2020, according to the ministry.

China has a six-tier water quality system, with water below Grade V classified as the worst quality. Surface water is considered as being of fairly good quality at Grade III or above.

Previously, five guidelines on water environment management in major river basins have been issued, one every five years. All previous documents, however, were designated as guidelines on water pollution control.

What differentiates this year's is that aside from listing the improvement of surface water quality as an obligatory target, it includes projected targets for the conservation of water resources and ecosystems.

By 2025 for instance, water levels in 53 dried-up water bodies should recover and native fish species should once again be present in 107 major water bodies. China also hopes to have created an additional 213 square kilometers of wetlands by that point.

The Friday guideline seeks to strengthen the endeavor to address many of the outstanding problems in aquatic environment management, including the inadequate supply of water to meet the demands of aquatic ecosystems and the deteriorating condition of water, according to a media release from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment on Friday.

It stated that the new document doesn't encourage local authorities to set overly high targets for improving water quality.

This year's guideline demonstrates a change in the national focus on water environment management from pollution control to the protection of the aquatic ecology and environment in accordance with the national principle that "mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes, and grasslands are a living community", according to Qu Chao, an official with the ministry's department of water ecology and environment.

The document stresses the management of the aquatic environment, water resources and ecology in a synergistic and coordinated manner, he said. As to water resource management, for example, greater importance is placed on guaranteeing the needs of aquatic ecosystems.