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SCIO press conference on water management and national water security

China.org.cn | September 25, 2023



What measures has the MWR adopted to restore the ecological environment of rivers and lakes? Could you please share with us some practices and experiences in this regard? What measures will be put in place to help make more rivers and lakes benefit the people? Thank you.  

Li Guoying:

In recent years, the MWR has implemented the philosophy of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, and resolutely delivered on the guidance of General SecretaryXi Jinping's water management concept of "prioritizing water conservation, balancing spatial distribution, taking systematic approaches, and giving full play to the roles of both government and market." We have also promoted the comprehensive and systematic management of river basins and accelerated our efforts to restore the ecological environment of rivers and lakes, ensuring healthier rivers and lakes.

First, we have stepped up efforts to restore the rivers that do not flow and lakes that have shrunk or dried up. We have taken steps to replenish rivers and lakes in north China and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. A total of 48 rivers and lakes spanning seven river systems in the Haihe River Basin were replenished in 2022, with around 7 billion cubic meters of water being replenished. By doing so, most of the rivers in North China are now clean and able to flow freely. More and more rivers are restoring life and regaining vitality. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal was fully connected for the first time in a century. As many as 88 rivers were restored in the campaign to better protect "mother rivers." We have put in place a river- and lake-targeted distribution policy to optimize the allocation of water resources. All these efforts have been significant in recovering connectivity between rivers and lakes and restoring damaged ecosystems as well.

Second, we have made great efforts to ensure the ecological flow of rivers and lakes. We have set up ecological flow targets for 171 major cross-provincial rivers and lakes, as well as those for 415 intro-provincial rivers and lakes. Given this, we have adopted a series of measures, including a unified distribution of water resources in the river and lake basins, strict control of the total amount of water drawing and water use, enhanced dynamic monitoring and early warning systems, and strict supervision and assessment in order to ensure all the aforementioned targets can be realized. In 2022, over 90% of the key rivers and lakes nationwide realized their ecological flow target, and more than 41,000 small hydro-power stations in the country basically followed the principles of "releasing and monitoring waters according to water level measurement results." All these practices have played an important role in restoring river connectivity and reviving the ecological environment of rivers and lakes.

Third, we have made more efforts to manage and protect rivers and lakes. We have strengthened the river-and-lake-chief responsibility system. We have appointed 300,000 river and lake chiefs at the levels of provinces, municipalities, counties, and townships, while at the village level, as many as 900,000 river and lake chiefs have been appointed. A joint meeting mechanism for river and lake chiefs at the provincial level over the seven major river basins have been set up, and we have enhanced the overall planning, regulation, distribution, and management of these areas. By doing so, we are able to establish a management and protection system for rivers and lakes featuring a coordinated synergy between upstream and downstream areas, left and right banks, as well as trunks and tributaries. We have tightened the control over shoreline space around the rivers and lakes and regulated the management of river and lake sand mining. We have taken advantage of such technologies as satellite remote sensing and drones to strengthen daily supervision and patrol, which will improve the efficiency of supervision over rivers and lakes. In 2022, we rectified 29,000 problems related to rivers and lakes, including indiscriminate occupation, unauthorized excavation, inappropriate dumping, and unlawful construction. These efforts have improved flood carrying and storage capacities of rivers and lakes. The environment and ecosystems of rivers and lakes have been improved as well. 

Fourth, we have expedited our approach to addressing the overexploitation of groundwater. We have expedited the establishment of dual control indicators for the total amount of groundwater extraction and the water level, ensuring strict control over the intensity of groundwater exploitation. Using measures such as "reducing, replacing, controlling, replenishing, and managing," we continuously promote the comprehensive treatment of excessive groundwater extraction in northern China. We have improved the mechanism for reporting changes in groundwater and strengthened our groundwater supervision. In 2022, the amount of groundwater extracted in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region decreased by about 4 billion cubic meters compared to 2018. This led to a reduction in excessive groundwater extraction by 2.6 billion cubic meters. The proportion of groundwater supply decreased to 35% from 51% in 2018. Consequently, the groundwater level in the treatment area has achieved an overall recovery.

Fifth, we have promoted comprehensive control of soil erosion. Through measures such as strengthening the prevention of soil erosion, strictly regulating human-induced soil erosion in accordance with the law, and accelerating the treatment of soil erosion in key areas, we have made steady progress in controlling soil erosion nationwide and have steadily improved the quality and stability of the ecosystem. The country's soil erosion area was reduced to 2.6534 million square kilometers in 2022, a decrease of 83,500 square kilometers compared to 2018.

In subsequent phases, the MWR will persist in promoting the execution of crucial tasks. These include the rejuvenation of the "mother rivers," ecological preservation and restoration of rivers and lakes, comprehensive mitigation of groundwater overexploitation, and all-encompassing soil erosion control. Our goal is to ensure the health of rivers and lakes and work towards their sustainable utilization. Thank you.

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