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China commits to protecting major rivers

An annual four-month fishing ban has started on major Chinese rivers, including the country’s longest river the Yangtze, as part of China’s efforts to protect its rivers.

The ban aims to protect aquatic organisms and is effective in the main stream, major tributaries, and lakes along the Yangtze, Huaihe, Minjiang, and Pearl rivers.

The Yellow River, China’s second longest river, will join the ban for the first time starting from April 1.

Nearly 10,000 people and 1,000 vessels from 21 provincial regions will work to prevent illegal fishing and related activities during the moratorium.

The annual fishing ban was initiated in 2002 on the Yangtze River and on the Pearl River in 2011. The ban was extended from three months to four in the Yangtze River in 2016 and in the Pearl River in 2017, in a bid to better protect fish resources.

Besides the fishing ban, a pilot “river chief” scheme is being rolled out nationwide to tackle pollution.

Kuang Bing, head of the Guangming New District Administration Committee in the booming southern city of Shenzhen, was given a new title last year: Maozhou River Chief.

Besides leading economic development in the region, Kuang is responsible for the management and protection of watercourses as well as preventing pollution.

Kuang is one of about 200,000 river chiefs at provincial, city, county and township levels in China. The country aims to roll out the river chief mechanism nationwide by the end of 2018.

A four-tier system of lake chiefs will also be established by the end of this year to cover all lakes, according to a government plan.

The mechanism is already taking effect. East China’s Zhejiang Province has basically eliminated black water and has said it will deal with any water “below Grade V,” the lowest acceptable level in China’s water quality grading system.

China’s unbalanced industrial structure has hindered the prevention and control of water pollution in many areas and local governments face a conundrum between developing the economy or protecting the environment, said Wu Jing, an assistant researcher with Tsinghua University’s School of Environment.

With top officials now accountable as river and lake chiefs, the system will help to change the nation’s industrial structure and better protect the environment, he added.

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