Law to be used to patch up water protection loopholes

Updated: Oct 24, 2023 China Daily Print
Share - WeChat
This aerial photo taken on March 29, 2023 shows the scenery of Xiling Gorge, one of the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River, in Central China's Hubei province. Located in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, the Three Gorges Reservoir area is an important ecological function zone and reservoir of freshwater resources in China. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Supreme People's Procuratorate has called on procuratorial organs to use public interest litigation to address the continuing challenges facing ecological and environmental protection in the country's river and lake basins.

A river basin is a self-contained and highly integrated natural region, encompassing various ecological elements such as mountains, rivers, forests, fields, lakes, grasslands and sands.

Each basin often crosses multiple administrative jurisdictions, and involves not only upstream and downstream areas but also areas on both sides of the river, making it prone to challenges like disparities in policies and actions between different parts of the basin, often resulting in the tragedy of the commons, said Hu Weilie, head of the SPP's eighth procuratorial office in August. He was appointed vice-minister of the Ministry of Justice later that month.

Varying resource and environmental capacities in different regions, along with differing developmental stages, lead to disparities in how ecological functions are balanced with economic and social development, he said.

"The governance of ecological and environmental protection in river basins is undoubtedly a long-term, complex and arduous systemic undertaking. It requires a comprehensive consideration of the relationships between natural resource elements and ecosystems, the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature, and regional coordination," he said.

According to the SPP, it has used public interest litigation as a catalyst for the governance of major rivers, including the Yangtze River and the Yellow River, in recent years.

In response to the long-standing problem of ship pollution along the Yangtze River, the SPP has filed more than 550 public interest litigations, promoting multi-departmental coordination and basin-wide cooperation.

Procuratorial organs have also capitalized on cross-regional cooperation and special supervision campaigns to address issues where multiple departments were passing the buck, thereby advancing the integrated protection of the ecological environment, said Hu.

According to the SPP, in the past three years, procurators nationwide filed 40,967 cases for water pollution in major rivers and lakes, as well as for odorous water bodies in urban and rural areas. They also urged offenders to restore 81,700 hectares of polluted water sources and clean up 34,680 kilometers of polluted and illegally occupied river channels.

In an exemplary case released by the SPP, in the upstream of the Dongjiang River, a major tributary in the Pearl River Basin that originates from Jiangxi province, traces of fertilizer were found due to improper agricultural practices, leading to a widespread outbreak of water hyacinths.

Prosecutors in Anyuan county in Jiangxi, upon finding out about the outbreak in March, initiated a public interest litigation. Through field visits, it was found that the discharge of wastewater from livestock farms along the river was the primary cause of fertilizer traces.

The county's environmental protection bureau, agriculture and rural affairs bureau and the township government where the farms are located were found to have failed to fulfill their administrative responsibilities.

In April, the procuratorate issued a pre-prosecution suggestion to the departments, urging them to rectify the matter.

In the following two months, 97 unauthorized livestock farms were shut down, and 248 livestock farms improved their environmental protection capacities. In June, real-time monitoring indicated a significant improvement in the water quality.

Hu said the SPP and the provincial procuratorate will intensify their efforts in handling such cases, with the focus on helping solve prominent problems in the management of river basins that involve various departments and regions.

Copyright©2024 China Daily. All rights reserved.


京公网安备 11010502032503号 京公网安备 11010502032503号