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China protects Yellow River through ecological restoration

Source: Xinhua Updated: 2023-09-19

YINCHUAN -- As the river chief of a 2.3-km-long section of the Yellow River near her village, Wang Ruolan has a habit of taking a stroll along the riverbank and picking up garbage when on patrol.

"Careless trash-dumping is now rarely seen alongside the riverbank, as people's awareness of protecting the ecological environment of the Yellow River has improved," said Wang, who is also the Party secretary of Shengjin village in the city of Zhongwei in Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

River chiefs like Wang are an important force safeguarding the ecological environment of the Yellow River, well-known as China's "mother river."

Wang has faced a challenging task in convincing villagers to refrain from cultivating crops on the river beach in the middle of the river, as such farming activities jeopardize flood control efforts and pose a threat to the Yellow River's ecosystem.

"It's hard for villagers to break the old habit, so I have to explain to them repeatedly that the land is not for farming and also dangerous to reach," Wang said.

Pouring her heart and soul into the work, Wang finally won the villagers' support. Today, the river beach has been restored to its natural landscape.

"We have the responsibility to protect the Yellow River as it passes through our village," Wang said, adding that nowadays more people are willing to take a walk along the riverbank as the water has become cleaner.

Apart from introducing the river chief position, provinces and autonomous regions along the Yellow River have adopted other measures, such as ecological restoration and joint prevention and control mechanisms for water pollution to protect the ecological environment of the "mother river."

In the Litong district of Wuzhong City in Ningxia, there is a piece of artificial wetland called Guchengwan that play a vital role in the Yellow River's ecological environment. Part of a wastewater disposal system, the wetland follows the natural working way of waste and pollution disposal in natural wetlands.

With an investment of 98 million yuan (about $13.7 million), the wetland supports a waste disposal facility that further purifies already-treated water, ensuring high-quality soil water in the region.

The wetland is filled with pebble stones which can efficiently absorb suspended dirt and purify water, necessary for the breeding of microbes, said Zhou Zijuan, an official of the local environmental protection office. "That is why we have so many wild plants around," Zhou added.

Over the years, Ningxia has built several wetlands along the Yellow River's tributaries and gutter ways as a key measure to improve the ecological environment in the watershed areas of the river.

Thanks to years of unwavering efforts, the water quality at the Ningxia section of the Yellow River has remained at Class II in recent years, and the proportion of surface water of Class III standard or above has reached 90 percent, according to Ningxia's water conservancy department.

Surface water quality in China is divided into five classes, with Class I being the highest quality.

With only 7 percent of the Yangtze River's total water resources, the Yellow River supplies water to 12 percent of China's population and supports the irrigation of 17 percent of the country's arable land. To alleviate the burden of the "mother river," China is also actively promoting water conservation.

For example, Northwest China's Shaanxi province has carried out the reform of agricultural water prices in all irrigated areas, and East China's Shandong province has introduced a smart irrigation system to encourage precise and intensive use of water resources.

Yin Guosheng, a farmer in Wuzhong city, has tasted the sweetness of the new irrigation method. With support from the local government, he recently installed drip irrigation equipment in his 250-mu (about 16.67-hectare) corn field.

"Corn yield has greatly increased with the new watering facility," said Yin, adding that the equipment has helped him reduce water and labor costs. "I now earn an extra amount of over 200 yuan per mu," he said.

The breathtaking views and the ecological transformation of the river have boosted tourism, with rafting emerging as one of the most exciting ways to explore the river.

"The water used to be smelly, and now it is much cleaner than before," said Li Cong, a rafter from Ningxia's Qingtongxia Yellow River grand canyon tourist area, who has been ferrying passengers on sheepskin rafts across the river for 14 years.

The sheepskin raft is the oldest means of transportation used on the river. Tourists are always curious about it and want to go for a ride.

"During the drift, some will ask me how the sheepskin raft is made, how I feel living alongside the Yellow River, and the history of some scenic spots along the river. Sometimes I will sing folk songs, and the tourists seem to really enjoy it," Li said.