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The scheme to promote the river chiefs system in Shanghai

Mar 6, 2017

The Shanghai government’s information office held a press conference on February 6 on the scheme to promote the river chiefs system in the city. Following are the highlights:

Bai Tinghui, director, Shanghai Water Authority Liu Xiaotao, deputy director, Shanghai Water Authority Fang Fang, deputy director, Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau

Jiefang Daily: I have two questions. How many waterways in the city will be cleaned up by the end of this year and how many waterways have already been cleaned up? You mentioned that the performance of local officials as river chiefs will be an important criterion for their overall job evaluation. How important is it? How will an official be responsible for the clean-up scheme? Will the index of people’s satisfaction rate be included in the evaluation of the river chiefs?

Bai Tinghui: We have listed 471 rivers and waterways with a total length of 631 kilometers as a key task in the clean-up plan and the entire plan covers altogether 702 rivers and waterways with a total length of 648 kilometers after districts did complete and systematic surveys. Our clean-up campaign will cover all waterways, including nameless ones. The most polluted waterways are located in the suburbs or on the border of suburban and urban areas. The clean-up of 56 badly polluted waterways will be evaluated by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Work on 24 waterways was done last year and 32 waterways are to be cleaned this year. The 56 waterways are also included in the 471 rivers and waterways. We are now doing a thorough survey and will start the clean-up project in the first quarter. It is a hard job to collect information of all the nameless waterways and keep cleaning and prevent them from being polluted again. We will implement frequent water quality monitoring and sustainable management.

The second question is about the responsibility system of Party and government officials who take direct responsibility for the clean-up. We believe the job will be done well thanks to the innovative system and we also hope the 16 districts can have their own innovative systems. For example, Jinshan and Qingpu districts carry out villagers’ self-government and some districts can implement four-level river chiefs system instead of the three-level system to let officials shoulder more detailed responsibilities. We stress strict law enforcement and wide citizen participation in the clean-up campaign to strengthen social supervision and improve citizens’ satisfaction rate. We have set up a bulletin board with names and contacts of river chiefs along each river, in the hope that local people can supervise our work.

Wenhui Daily: What are the criteria for evaluating whether the waterways are cleaned up or not? What measures will you take to attain the goal of eliminating pollution in local rivers and waterways by the end of this year?

Liu Xiaotao: One of the standards of gauging a polluted waterway is people’s sense or reaction. A waterway that has triggered lots of complaints and has a pervasive bad environment and smell will be judged as being polluted. The scientific indexes include dissolved oxygen lower than 20 milligrams per liter, ammonia nitrogen higher than 5 and transparency lower than 5cm. By the end of this year, we will have improved the appearance of the waterways and their surrounding environment and the residents’ satisfaction rate should also be up. Assessment of people’s satisfaction rate will be carried out on all the targeted waterways when the clean-up is finished and the water quality is monitored every month to ensure the quality fulfills the criteria.

To accomplish the goal, we will take three steps. The first step is to establish a three-level river chiefs system throughout the city to cover the 25,000km waterways. We publicized the list of municipal and district river chiefs today. The river chiefs system will be completed by the end of this year, one year ahead of the central government’s requirement.

The second step is to promote comprehensive clean-up of small and medium waterways. Work on the 702 waterways will start in the first quarter and construction should be finished by the end of September. Meanwhile, we will regulate companies along the banks, carry out sewage treatment and close livestock and poultry farms near the banks. Every district will do the work at the same time.

The third step is to make analyses of small ditches and creeks in villages, parks and around residential houses with remote sensing technology and include filthy waters in the clean-up plan.

Xinmin Evening News: I have two questions. The government actually began cleaning up polluted waterways a few years ago but every summer our newspaper’s hotline receives complaints about this? Can we achieve a long-term effect through this campaign? The press release said that at least 21 square kilometers of water surface have been added during the 13th Five-Year Plan period. Where are they located, in the urban area or suburbs? Can you add something more?

Bai Tinghui: We have been prepared for a long-term campaign which will focus on difficulties. We want to combine water conservancy projects with innovative management system, like the river chiefs system. River chiefs are responsible for not only water quality and environment improvement but also protection of water resources, water coastline management, water surface control, recovery of water ecology and law enforcement and supervision. We have a set of working targets, organization structure and evaluation system for river chiefs.

We divided the task of adding 21 square kilometers of water surface in the 13th Five-Year Plan period into the 16 districts. We came up with a set of strict working system, including planning management, approval management, supervision, law enforcement, progress monitoring, information system construction and the river chiefs system. I believe we will reach the target with everyone’s efforts.

While cleaning up the polluted waterways, we will also step up construction of sewage treatment plants and sludge treatment projects. Work to upgrade 26 suburban sewage treatment plants is in full swing and should be finished within this year. Four sludge treatment projects in the downtown area and six projects in the suburbs, as well as construction of sewage pipes and network, are under way.

We need a long period to achieve a long-term effect. We will solve problems both in the water and on the banks, carry out measures to reach a long-term goal and clarify responsibilities of different officials.

Shanghai Radio: I want to know about the progress of the city’s action plan on water pollution prevention and treatment and Shanghai’s performance in the national and municipal evaluations.

Fang Fang: We enacted 10 measures to treat water pollution at the end of 2015 and in fact some work had begun in mid-2015; for instance, the upgrade of sewage treatment plants.

The 10 measures are aimed at guaranteeing safety of drinking water and improve the overall water environment and quality. By 2017, we should be able to collect and treat all the sewage in the urbanized area and eliminate bad smell. By 2020, 95% of the city’s urban sewage should be treated. The safety of drinking water source will be ensured and the quality of drinking water will improve. And we should also be in a position to eliminate unusable water by that time. We are facing heavy pressure to reach the target.

The scheme will tackle our key task in six aspects: first, guaranteeing drinking water safety; second, stepping up network construction of sewage treatment plants; third, promoting elimination of agricultural polluting sources; fourth, strictly controlling industrial pollution; fifth, deepening comprehensive improvement of the ecological environment; and sixth, strengthening protection and construction of the water ecosystem. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period, we designed nearly 90 projects, of which 70% needed investment.

We made arrangements in several aspects in 2016. Firstly, we established a joint system headed by the environmental protection and water affairs departments at municipal and district levels. Relevant departments, with their own work division, will report on project progress monthly and quarterly and will be evaluated annually.

Secondly, each of the 16 districts has been given their own tasks for each year. Municipal and district government leaders have signed target responsibility agreements on prevention and treatment of water pollution and all the districts have publicized their schemes on the official website of the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau.

Thirdly, combine the prevention and treatment of water pollution with the comprehensive improvement of ecological environment and regulation of livestock and poultry farms, carried out by the Shanghai Committee of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. With measures to contain sewage into pipes and remove illegal buildings on the banks, we will achieve a sustainable effect.

We reached the yearly target set by the central government last year. The water environment of 63.3% main rivers reached the requirements, up 27% than 2015; and the proportion of unusable water fell by 22% to 34%. We still have to work hard to eliminate unusable water by 2020.

The central government divided Shanghai’s 6,400-square-kilometer territory into 20 units to assess the production, life and development modes and water quality. Among the monitoring sections of the 20 units, seven didn’t reach the targets in 2014 and only two didn’t reach the targets last year, following water treatment at the upstream and improvement in the ecological environment. The two sections are the Suzhou Creek section and the Yunchuan Road Bridge section.

The city government has set up 239 monitoring sections in sub-districts or towns and 62% reached the targets, surpassing the expectation at the beginning of last year.

According to the plan for the city’s 77 key projects last year, construction should have started for 18 projects, 49 projects should have been completed and preliminary work on 10 projects should have been finished. By the end of last year, 17 of the 77 projects had been finished, namely the Jinze Reservoir and supporting construction, Xingta and Langxia towns of Jinshan District, Xinbang Town of Songjiang District, Zhujiajiao and Liantang towns of Qingpu District, upgrade project of six sewage plants of Sinopec, Lingang Area of Pudong New Area, Chenjia Town of Chongming Island and sludge treatment projects of Songjiang, Jiading and Fengxian districts.

We face heavy pressure this year because, according to the central government’s requirement, the water environment should only improve; it cannot deteriorate. We should pool sources of the whole society to realize sustainable improvement.

STV: We reported a complaint from a resident yesterday that there are pipelines discharging waste water into a section of the Zhenrugang River at the crossing of Shiquan Road and Langao Road for years. Is there a river chief in charge of the river? If so, how will you punish the river chief? You mentioned that pump stations in downtown discharge rainwater into the river on rainy days. What measures will you take to reduce the pollution as far as possible?

Bai Tinghui: We have taken notice of this TV report. The Zhenrugang River will surely have its own river chief whose name will be publicized soon. We are doing surveys to solve the rainwater discharging problem and eliminate pollution sources. We must connect sewage pipes of all the sewage producers into a pipe network that sends sewage into sewage treatment plants. We need time to complete the project. And we will publicize evaluation and supervisory rules to supervise the river chiefs.

The main pollution sources in downtown are discharge of rainwater into the rivers and mixture of rainwater and sewage. There are 52 flood pumping stations located near rivers. We are now upgrading 14 pump stations in downtown while 21 pump stations need technological improvement. We will improve management of the pump stations when water treatment is in conflict with flood control. A preliminary survey has found that 3,480 spots in downtown Shanghai need improvement. We will make those improvements while concurrently doing the surveys.

We hope to discharge less rainwater into the rivers with scientific management although some discharge is inevitable during rainstorms.

ICS: I have two questions. Will you impose more severe punishment on companies that send sewage into the river without permission? Some relocation and reconstruction projects in the suburbs involve many natural waterways, such as the Chenjia Town relocation project on Chongming Island. How will you ensure that these projects do not have an adverse impact on the waterways?

Liu Xiaotao: The six relevant departments have drafted a joint law enforcement scheme. More severe crackdown and punishment will be imposed this year for setting up illegal sewage outlets and for illegal buildings.

As for the construction of the Chongming Ecological Island, the water surface rate will be strictly controlled. Currently, the city’s water surface rate is 9.77% and we plan to increase it to 10.1% by 2020. We will guarantee the water surface rate in Chenjia Town won’t decrease during the project with stricter terms of approval for filling in rivers, as well as strict water surface monitoring and law enforcement.