The central government has decided to set up a river and lake protection system linked to senior officials’ performance evaluation by the end of 2018, after some regional pilot projects proved to be effective.
The system requires senior officials of China’s provincial, city, county and township governments to take full responsibility as protection officers for the rivers and lakes in the region over which they have jurisdiction, according to a document released on Dec 11 by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.
The protection officers will lead both the management and protection of a river or lake, including water protection, river bank management and pollution prevention, and their results will be included in their performance evaluation. The officers will be held accountable, even after their retirement, for any ecological damage that results on their watch, according to the document.
It also said the system will be promoted in different regions according to local conditions. River and lake protection officers’ responsibilities and work phone numbers will be posted publicly.
Previously, eight provincial regions, including Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces and Beijing and Tianjin, conducted pilot projects using the protection officer system.
China’s eastern Zhejiang province established a river protection officer system in 2014. The officers, who must provide a cash deposit, will miss out on promotion opportunities and lose their deposits if water quality in their jurisdiction falls below an annual target.
Beijing established a similar river protection system in June. Su Jianhua, river protection officer for the Beihanhe River, said officers must patrol and clean the river and the nearby roads every day.
“All grass on the river bank has to be trimmed regularly and be kept below a height of 50 centimeters. The cleanliness of all roads near the river guarantees the cleanliness of the river,” she said.
Zhao Xiang of the Beijing Water Authority said protection officers will coordinate with other government departments to take enforcement action against unlawful acts that cause pollution.