SCIO press conference on strengthening eco-environment protection for a Beautiful China

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The National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection convened recently and proposed to further leverage the sword-wielding role of central government environmental inspection. How were the problems found during the first two rounds of inspections rectified? When is the third round expected to take place, and how will it be different from the previous two rounds? Thank you.

Huang Runqiu:

Thank you for your questions. As we all know, central government environmental inspection is a major institutional innovation and reform measure personally planned, deployed and promoted by General Secretary Xi Jinping. Since the commencement of the pilot project in Hebei province in 2015, two rounds of inspections had been completed by June 2022, covering 31 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. We have also re-inspected 20 provinces and autonomous regions and inspected two departments under the State Council and six centrally-administered enterprises.

During the inspections, we adhered to a strict tone and problem-oriented approach, directly tackling the most challenging issues. We resolved a significant number of prominent eco-environmental issues and achieved remarkable results, earning "recognition from the central government, praise from the people, support from all social sectors, and the resolution of many problems." Of all the 3,294 tasks specified in the plan for the first round of supervision and rectification, over 97% have been completed by June 2023. Over 64% of the 2,164 tasks specified in the plan for the second round of supervision and rectification have been completed. The two rounds of inspections have handled 287,000 public complaints of problems related to environmental matters, with 286,000 of these complaints either fully resolved or having achieved progress toward resolution. We have made notable progress in the rectification of prominent problems. For example, the Qilian Mountains in Gansu province have curtailed illegal acts such as unauthorized mining and construction and are gradually regaining their pristine waters and lush mountains, transitioning from chaos to governance. The Helan Mountains in Ningxia Hui autonomous region have effectively curbed disorderly mining activities, with the scars left over by history gradually being healed. In Yunnan province, all illegal buildings in the Grade-I and II protection areas of Dianchi Lake in Changyao Mountain have been entirely demolished, restoring green to the earth.

Over the past few years, I have further understood the inspection work, which can be specified in the following aspects.

First, General Secretary Xi Jinping has attached great importance to our inspection work. Thanks to the high attention and kind care of General Secretary Xi Jinping, we have achieved what we have today. Regarding this aspect, General Secretary Xi Jinping has given more than 90 important instructions, making clear requirements for us to fearlessly conduct investigations, expose cases, make rectifications, and enforce the accountability system. The final decisions and encouragements made by General Secretary Xi Jinping, especially in critical moments, have always been the source of our confidence and the driving force to further promote inspection work. In his speech at the National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection, General Secretary Xi Jinping repeatedly required us to further leverage the sword-wielding role of central government environmental inspection.

Second, we have addressed issues in a targeted manner. We have adhered to a target-oriented and scientific approach, upheld the rule of law in supervision, and focused on the concerns of the central government, society, and the people. Over the past few years, we have concentrated on prominent problems emerging during the implementation of major regional strategies such as joint efforts in conservation and no large-scale development in the Yangtze River Economic Belt, the 10-year fishing ban in the Yangtze River, and setting up urban development, land use, human activities and industrial development based on the local water system and conditions in the Yellow River Basin. We have rigorously controlled the initiation of projects featuring high energy consumption, high pollution, and low quality. We have also paid attention to the implementation progress of projects, aiming to reduce excess capacity and address major problems, including significant ecological damage and environmental pollution. We've seized on the main contradictions and the main aspects of those contradictions, striving to accurately profile individuals or entities under supervision and gain a clear understanding of their situation. We will thoroughly research and investigate issues across the country and make a strong start in the second half of the rectification campaign.

Third, we have implemented an accountability mechanism. Major problems and typical cases identified by inspectors were handed over to local authorities in accordance with relevant regulations, discipline and law. After two rounds of inspections, we transferred 667 accountability-related cases and held 9,699 people accountable for their misconduct, including 1,335 departmental/bureau-level cadres and 4,195 cadres of section rank. This has effectively demonstrated the deterrent role of inspectors.

Fourth, we have focused on building our talent team. We have enhanced practical exercises and professional training for our personnel, helping them achieve political strength, great skills, impeccable conduct, and a strong sense of responsibility. Moreover, we aim to equip them with the capabilities to fully utilize new technologies and improve their ability to identify problems accurately and efficiently. For example, during the filming of the warning videos for the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, our personnel collaborated with CCTV staff, investigating and filming on-site for over seven months each year, covering more than 600,000 kilometers. They made full use of new technologies such as satellite remote sensing, UAV aerial photography, and infrared rays, ensuring our work's orderly and efficient development.

This year marks the first year of the third round of inspections. We will uphold the implementation of Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization as a major political task, step up efforts to promote the key tasks of promoting green, low-carbon, and high-quality development, and win the critical battle against pollution prevention and control. Additionally, we will map out the new round of inspections. We will wield the sharp sword of inspection, taking action against anyone who breaks the law. Furthermore, we will urge the inspected entities to effectively shoulder the major political responsibility for constructing a Beautiful China and contribute to accelerating the modernization of harmony between humanity and nature. Thank you!

CNR News:

We have observed that the MEE attaches great importance to the work of keeping waters clear, and has made great efforts in this regard. Recently, it launched a pilot project for water ecological assessment in the Yangtze River basin. How will the MEE coordinate the governance of water resources, water environment and water ecology in the future? Thank you.

Huang Runqiu:

Thank you for your question. You raised a question that we are thinking deeply about, which is how to further consolidate and enhance the effectiveness of keeping our waters clean. Human beings have always preferred to live close to water bodies, and civilizations have flourished near water bodies. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has emphasized the protection of the water ecological environment as a priority in promoting ecological progress. This has spurred transitional changes in China's water ecological environment protection. Through a series of major initiatives such as the investigation and rectification of sewage outfalls into seas and rivers, the remediation of black and malodorous water bodies in cities, and the eradication of inferior Class V surface water, our clean water defense campaign has achieved noteworthy results. I will not list them one by one, but just talk about the results. By last year, the proportion of Class I-III surface water sections nationwide had reached 87.9%, approaching the level of developed countries. The main channel of the Yangtze River has maintained Class II water quality for three consecutive years, and the main channel of the Yellow River has attained Class II water quality for the first time. Black and malodorous water bodies in built-up areas of cities at the prefecture level and above have been basically eliminated, and the level of drinking water safety has been improved.

Next, we will thoroughly implement the spirit of the 20th CPC National Congress and the National Conference on Ecological and Environmental Protection, and continue to win the battle of keeping waters clear. We will adhere to a three-pronged coordination of water resource protection, water environment management, and water ecological restoration. Our overall strategy is to concentrate on the protection and restoration of water ecology while consolidating and enhancing the quality of the water environment. In this respect, we will focus on three aspects of our work.

First, we will focus on consolidating and improving the quality of the water environment. We will direct our efforts towards addressing sewage outfalls into rivers, effectively resolving prominent problems such as illegal overflow and direct discharge of sewage along rivers, and efficiently controlling the discharge of pollutants into rivers. Last year, the General Office of the State Council issued guidelines on strengthening the supervision and management of sewage outfalls into rivers and seas. These guidelines call for a comprehensive approach to investigation, measurement, traceability, treatment, and management in this area, aiming to ensure comprehensive rectification of various pollution sources in urban and rural areas. Over the next few years, the investigation and rectification of sewage outfalls will continue to be a key feature of our work. We will endeavor to complete the rectification of sewage outfalls of the entire Yangtze River basin as well as those of the main channels and important tributaries of the Yellow River and other basins by the end of 2025. Second, we will further promote water pollution control in industrial parks within the Yangtze River Economic Belt and initiate a special campaign for water pollution control in industrial parks along the Yellow River.

Second, we will focus on water ecological protection and restoration. Biodiversity is an essential indicator for assessing the water ecological restoration of the Yangtze River. We will focus on the Yangtze River basin to promote the pilot project of water ecological assessment. This past June, we jointly issued the detailed rules for evaluating indicators of water ecology in the Yangtze River basin (trial version) in collaboration with relevant departments. The rules clearly stipulate that from 2022 to 2024, a pilot assessment will be carried out in 17 provinces within the Yangtze River basin to determine the assessment base and conduct the first evaluation in 2025. We will conduct water ecological assessments to guide local governments to fulfill their responsibilities for water ecological protection and restoration, and strive to improve the diversity, stability, and sustainability of the water ecosystem in the Yangtze River basin.

Third, we will focus on promoting the implementation of water ecological environment protection plans for key river basins. First, we will formulate a list of crucial tasks and measures for implementing the plans, strengthen unified supervision across river basins, improve the working mechanism for identifying and addressing major issues, and solidify the primary responsibilities of local governments. Second, we will vigorously advance the protection and construction of beautiful rivers and lakes. Following the Reference Index for the Protection and Construction of Beautiful Rivers and Lakes (Trial) that has been issued, we aim to transform over 2,700 water bodies into picturesque rivers and lakes with clear water and verdant banks by 2035. Third, we will strive to make solid progress in the fight against black and malodorous water bodies. We will consolidate and improve the effectiveness of the treatment of black and malodorous water bodies in cities at the prefecture level and above, and strengthen supervision of the 2,863 remediated black and malodorous water bodies to ensure long-term cleanliness. We will intensify the rectification of black and malodorous water bodies in county-level cities and aim to complete the rectification by 2025. Thank you.

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