Xinhua Headlines: China uses technological innovations to strengthen water resources protection

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XINING, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Black-necked cranes were leisurely playing in wetlands, casting arc-shaped reflections on the clear water; more than 200 sheep were strolling on a hillside on the bank of a section of the Yangtze River.

These were live feeds from a monitoring system on water resources and wildlife set up in the Sanjiangyuan area in northwest China, which contains the headwaters of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers.

The system is composed of video cameras at multiple observation points, a private network that allows real-time video feeds, and a management and control platform, forming an important part of the ecological monitoring network in Sanjiangyuan.

Over recent years, China has vigorously strengthened the protection of water resources as part of its efforts to build a green, beautiful and sustainable future. In the process, the latest technological innovations have played a big part in boosting the efficiency and effectiveness of water resources management.

The Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province, which administers a part of the Sanjiangyuan area, delivers about 29.7 billion cubic meters of clean water to downstream regions on average every year. It is home to the world's most primitive and largest alpine ecosystem, where glaciers, snow-capped mountains and high-altitude wetlands play a key role in the conservation of river headwaters.

Yushu has in recent years spent more than 8 million yuan (about 1.16 million U.S. dollars) on building the monitoring system, said Dorga, head of the Yushu ecology and environment bureau, adding that 35 observation points have been set up in the prefecture.

"The system has effectively provided on-site observation and analytical tools for water source protection, solving the problems of slow response, high cost and limited coverage associated with human patrols," Dorga said.

In the north of China, the Haihe River, dubbed the "mother river" of Tianjin Municipality, plays a crucial role in the city's flood discharge, water storage and urban environment.

After placing a white unmanned boat about a meter in length on the Haihe River, Mei Pengwei began to monitor on a laptop the sonar images the boat sent back as it headed toward the river center.

Mei works in the Tianjin Eco-Environmental Monitoring Center. Since 2019, Mei and his colleagues have been routinely monitoring the conditions of the Haihe River and its tributaries.

In 2017, the water quality of 12 rivers in Tianjin, including the main stream of the Haihe River, was graded below Class V, which means too polluted for any purpose, including irrigation.

In recent years, the local government started a campaign against water pollution by using advanced devices, including unmanned ships equipped with sonar, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellite remote sensing.

"As some parts of the river are hundreds of meters wide with marshes and grass on the banks, it is very hard for our monitors to get into the river," said Gao Kai, senior engineer at the monitoring center, explaining the necessity of the unmanned devices.

According to Gao, UAVs can provide real-time photos or videos of the river conditions and locate pollution on the river surface, while unmanned ships are able to locate underwater sewage pipes through sonar detection.

After a suspected case of pollution is detected, monitoring experts rely on satellite remote sensing for information about nearby enterprises, residential areas and business districts, before making field trips to pinpoint the source of the pollution.

"With the help of technology, we have conducted pollution source investigations, while also monitoring water quality and aquatic biology in a more accurate and effective manner," Mei said.

Now, the water quality of 12 rivers in Tianjin has significantly improved, upgrading to class IV in general, which is suitable for agricultural and certain industrial uses.

The development of mobile technology has also provided environmental regulators, as well as members of the public, with a powerful and handy tool to tackle environmental violations.

In Xiangtan City, Hunan Province, local authorities have promoted a new and modern system of water resources management, which relies heavily on mobile technology.

They have taken the lead in the province in developing an electronic map of the city's water system and a mobile app called "Smart Water Management," which allows one to easily monitor the river situation with just a few taps.

Zhang Chaoqun is a river chief in charge of an 8.8-km-long section of the Xiangjiang River, which flows through Xiangtan. He has been patrolling this section every day since 2017.

Every time he detects a problem, such as river pollution or illegal fishing, Zhang takes a photo on the spot and uploads the relevant information through the mobile app. After relevant government administrations investigated and solved the problem, he always receives feedback on the app.

"The app is very convenient. Violations are usually redressed within five working days," Zhang said, adding that it helped river chiefs like him better carry out their duties. Enditem

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