China's Yangtze River Environment Protection Drive A Massive Success

Yangtze River
A boy looks at cargo ships passing along the Pearl River in Guangzhou, Guangdong province (Photo: Reuters)

China's various programs to rehabilitate the Yangtze River have reportedly been a massive success as the quality of its waters and the quantity of its aquatic life has returned. According to the head of an environmental watchdog who spoke at the recently held National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, they have apparently seen an increase in the population of animals such as the Yangtze River's finless porpoises thanks to the country's relatively new environmental policies.

One of the latest policies that are now scheduled to be enforced is a 10-year ban on fishing across the length of the river. The ban will reportedly take effect next year. To offset the effects on local fishermen, the government through the ministries of agriculture and rural affairs, finance, and human resources and social security will establish various subsidy and social security programs to help the local residents' transition to new jobs. Former fishermen will be given different business and job opportunities, while others will be recruited as river guards to protect the Yangtze's wildlife.

Apart from the river's aquatic life, ministries are also looking into the conversation of the river specifically for the more than 3,600 species of birds that migrate to it every year. One of the most critically endangered species that visit the river each year is the Siberian white crane.

The ban on fishing is just one of the many measures that will be enforced in a renewed drive to restore the country's "mother river." President Xi Jinping recently brought up the topic at a symposium in Wuhan last year, mentioning that the protection and restoration of the river will be a dominant focus of authorities moving forward. The president added that the Yangtze is "seriously ill," and that policies need to be enacted to nurse it back to health.

The river, which stretches over 6,000 kilometers and covers 11 provinces, feeds millions of Chinese people living around it. Unfortunately, annual fish yields have drastically fallen due to the vicious cycle of fishermen user denser nets to catch smaller fish. The river, particularly the Yangtze River Economic Belt, is also seen as a major economic engine by China.  According to the National Bureau of Statistics, businesses and commerce in that particular area account for 40 percent of the country's national population and GDP.

A renewed focus has also been given by the government through greater financial support for environmental compensations. The Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the National Development and Reform Commission has launched a new reward-and-punishment strategy that would encourage businesses to practice stricter environmental management. The ministry also recently launched several campaigns that would handle issues such as sewage waste management, solid waste disposal, and water quality restoration. Over 30 regulations are reportedly related to water management and treatment along the length of the river. 

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