Yellow River protection law takes effect


A new law on the ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River basin came into effect on Saturday.

The law was adopted in October 2022 and features enriched content regarding ecological conservation and restoration, as well as environmental pollution control, in areas along the Yellow River, known as the "Mother River" in China.

It also stipulates that the water resources along the river basin should be allocated under a unified national allocation system.

Water shortage and the fragile ecological environment remain the most pressing issues in the Yellow River basin.

With the adoption of a problem-oriented approach, the law stresses the importance of ecological protection and restoration, conservation and intensive use of water resources, water and sediment regulating operation, flood control and safety, pollution prevention and control, and high-quality development.

In addition, the law stipulates targeted provisions to prevent and control desertification, control water and soil erosion, and protect and restore ecosystems.

"The law has established the basic principles of putting protection [of the Yellow River] as a high priority and governance as an essential. And the principle is embodied in the Article 3 of the General Provisions of the law, prioritizing ecological conservation and restoration. It demonstrates a major philosophy of the protection of the Yellow River, that is, priority must be given to ecological conservation, followed by green development," said Huang Chengliang, director of the theory department of the Thinktank for Eco-civilization Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Inadequate high-quality development constitutes the biggest challenge for the Yellow River basin, one of the most important ecological barriers.

In response, the protection law requires efforts to promote high-quality development of manufacturing and transformation of resource-intensive industries, and adjust and optimize the industrial structure, energy mix as well as transportation structure. Meanwhile, it places particular emphasis on efforts to ramp up the preservation and inheritance of Yellow River culture.

To better implement the law, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, China's top environmental watchdog, together with competent departments, has formulated and issued a plan for ecological and environmental protection in the Yellow River basin, and released and implemented the action plan for ecological protection and governance of the Yellow River.

In March 2021, the ministry launched a campaign to comb the banks along the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River basin to map all sewage outlets along the river. The two-year effort successfully pinpointed a total of 17,399 sewage exits.

In mid-March this year, the ministry continued the effort and organized environmental inspectors to map sewage exits along the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River's main stems as well as some of its tributaries, and has basically figured out the total number of the sewage outlets into the river in the investigated area.

The campaign involves 31 cities in three provinces of Shanxi, Shaanxi and Gansu, covering a total of 4,535 kilometers of shorelines.

Hi-tech equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned surface vehicles (USV), all-terrain robots and infrared thermal imaging device have been employed during the investigation to locate all sewage outlets along the investigated area. So far, 8,500 sewage outlets have been identified.

"We have basically realized the registration-based management of sewage outlets. We will work together with all localities to press ahead with the efforts, and lay a solid foundation for targeted and science-based pollution control in the Yellow River basin in the next step," said Shi Qingmin, deputy director of the Bureau of Ecological and Environmental Enforcement of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

The Yellow River is China's second largest river after the Yangtze. The Yangtze River Protection Law, China's first law on a specific river basin, was put into effect on March 1, 2021.

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