From ‘Beautiful Rivers and Lakes’ to ‘Happy Rivers and Lakes’: Coordinated Water Management from Five Aspects in Ningbo

Located along the eastern coast of China, Zhejiang Province is endowed with picturesque landscape featuring clear waters and green mountains. Embracing the national motto of “clear waters and green mountains are as valuable as mountains of gold and silver,” the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee and the Zhejiang Provincial Government has opened up a new chapter in the construction of ecological civilization in recent years. With water resources as a focus, a package of policy measures on the coordinated water management from five aspects, namely sewage water, flood, waterlogging, water supply, and water conservation, started to be implemented in 2013, initiating an epic campaign for improved water management.

In the past seven years since the coordinated water management from five aspects was launched, Ningbo, a sub-provincial city in northeast Zhejiang, has made all-out efforts to protect the water environment through source control, pollution reduction, and ecological improvement. A series of projects have been carried out, including the “beautiful rivers and lakes” project, the “beautiful water towns” project, the “beautiful water villages” project, the water environment improvement project at the town and village levels, and the river dredging project. So far, more than 2,600 kilometers of rivers have been dredged; 29 pilot water environment improvement projects have been launched at the township (sub-district) and village levels; and 468 villages have completed their water environment improvement projects. Ningbo has also approved 30 “beautiful water towns,” 100 “beautiful water villages,” and 31 “beautiful rivers and lakes” at the provincial level. The city’s objectives of water management during the 13th Five-Year Plan period have been accomplished and notable progress have been made in improving the local water environment.

Beilun District: A Pilot ‘Happy Rivers and Lakes’ County

In recent years, the government of Beilun District of Ningbo has been committed to practicing the concept of “clear waters and green mountains are as valuable as mountains of gold and silver” and seized the opportunities of the coordinated water management from five aspects, the river chief system, and the national pilot rivers and lakes management mechanism. With its advantages in geographical and water resources, the city actively explore a long-term river management and protection system featuring “institutionalized management, refined maintenance, normalized supervision, and ecological governance. It has made breakthroughs in the reform of the water management system, the innovation of mechanism construction, the consolidation of management foundation, and the upgrading of the capacity of construction and management, which contributed to the significant improvement of regional water environment and water quality.

Beilun District has successfully established a national ecological zone and a national ecological civilization construction demonstration zone. In recognition of its achievements in water management, the district has been granted the Dayu Cauldron Award five times and the Dayu Cauldron Silver Award twice. Beilun has also been rated “excellent” in performance review of the “Beautiful Zhejiang” project for three consecutive years and rated “excellent” in performance review of the “Beautiful Ningbo” project for 10 consecutive years. It has been listed as one of the top ten destinations to experience the beautiful Zhejiang and a national rivers and lakes management and protection mechanism innovation pilot zone.

Since June 2018, Beilun has successfully built 10 “beautiful rivers and lakes” (including four at the provincial level and five at the municipal level) like the Meishan River and the Lujiang River, four “beautiful water towns”, and 11 “beautiful water villages.” The district has also completed a series water culture projects, such as restoration of ancient water gates, bridges and ponds, water cultural parks, and port museums.

At the same time, digital technology has played an important role in the water management of Beilun District. Based on a smart water conservancy platform, the district has built a monitoring network covering all rivers and lakes under its jurisdiction. At present, a regional water conservancy information and IoT perception system has been basically established and eight water conservancy applications services have been developed. Beilun has also explored the digitalization of water management methods. Empowered by digital devices, such as intelligent unmanned ships, smart monitoring platforms and monitoring cameras, Beilun has achieved digitalized ecological governance and created a cloud water management platform, which allowed comprehensive monitoring, “online plus offline” 360-degree smart protection, and sewage outfall location.

Today, Beilun District has been approved as one of the first pilot zones for the “happy rivers and lakes” project, with a construction period of 2 years.

Yinzhou District: ‘Underwater Forest’ Reshapes Harmonious Water Environment

The Academician Park River running through the Academician Park is one of the main scenic rivers in Yinzhou District of Ningbo. Its water quality was rated “below Grade V” until the district launched a comprehensive water quality improvement project involving engineering renovation and ecological restoration. The “underwater forest” ecological restoration project adopted a variety of methods such as aeration, artificial wetland construction, aquatic plant cultivation, and bacteria release.

The key to ecological restoration project is the method of “bacteria plus water plants.” Compound bacteria strains can improve water quality, and submerged plants can absorb pollutants and increase the oxygen content of the river water while providing shelter for shrimp, fish, shellfish, insects, and other aquatic animals, thus a symbiotic ecological system involving underwater forest, aquatic animal, and microbial community is built.

With the completion of the ecological restoration project, the Academician Park River in Yinzhou District became a popular tourist attraction at the beginning of this year. Nowadays, the beautiful “underwater forest” is attracting more and more citizens to visit and take pictures. Following such success, the government of Yinzhou District launched similar “underwater forest” ecological restoration projects in the Yinzhou Park River and the Yongxin West River, where the rivers have taken on a new look with unimpeded river course, clear water, green banks, and beautiful scenery.

In addition to the “underwater forest” ecological restoration project, Yinzhou has also organized a series of public events, such as the river clearing campaign, the clean river action, and the “most beautiful river” contest, and made efforts to build green river banks and riverside trails and foster the water town culture, so as to heighten local residents’ sense of gain in water management. So far, five rivers in Yinzhou District, namely the Houtang River, the Yongxin River, the Xinyang Wooden Water Gate River, and the Yanshangan River, have been approved as provincial-level “beautiful rivers and lakes” and the Dasong River the municipal-level “beautiful rivers and lakes.”

There are several factors contributing to the high-quality completion of the water management objectives of Ningbo in 2020. First, the Ningbo Municipal Party Committee and the Ningbo Municipal Government attached great importance to water management. Government officials conducted frequent inspections to project sites and assumed the “river (lake) chief” responsible for 27 rivers and five lakes and reservoirs across Ningbo. The government also listed key tasks of water management as a priority area in implementing the “beautiful Ningbo” project. Regularly meetings were convened to arrange related work on water management.

Second, remarkable progress were made in promoting zero direct discharge of sewage. In 2020, Ningbo achieved its goal of initially building a city of zero direct discharge of sewage. Provincial-level zero direct sewage discharge zones were built in 34 towns (sub-districts); 34 municipal-level zero direct sewage discharge zones were approved; four provincial-level and 12 municipal-level zero direct sewage discharge zones were established in industrial clusters; and 93 residential areas realized zero direct discharge of sewage.

Tangible results have been delivered in improving the water environment. Following the notion of “emission reduction from source, process control, and end treatment,” the government of Ningbo strictly implemented three action plans covering source control, pollution reduction, and ecological improvement. Multiple measures were adopted to eliminate the source of river pollution, enhance regulation on sewage outfalls into rivers and water-related industries, improve the sewage management and drainage licensing system, and strengthen non-point source pollution control in rural areas.

The prevention and control of pollution in coastal waters has continued to make progress and the environmental quality has been constantly improved. A new round of investigation on sources of the pollutant discharge into the sea was completed. Supervised by local governments at provincial and municipal levels, Ningbo identified and documented a total of 1,892 such sources. In 2020, the water quality of all major rivers entering the sea in Ningbo met required standards.

In this process, Ningbo has also created a water management brand with local characteristics. By the end of 2020, the city had established 32 municipal-level “river chief” communities, 155 county-level “river chief” communities, and 702 township-level “river chief” communities, so that the “river and lake chief” system has been improved.

Concentrated Efforts in the Construction of ‘Happy Rivers and Lakes’

In 2020, the Ningbo Municipal Party Committee and the Ningbo Municipal Government made concentrated efforts in water management. The water quality of the whole river basin was steadily improved; urban and rural sewage treatment capacity reached a new level; and the people’s satisfaction with water management was effectively enhanced. In 2021, the city plans to build 100 “beautiful rivers and lakes” and 100 “beautiful water towns” as well as improve 500 kilometers of small and medium-sized rivers and 1,000 ponds in rural areas. To complete more tasks with a wider scope and higher requirements, the Ningbo Municipal Party Committee and the Ningbo Municipal Government will work together to deliver brilliant performance in construction of beautiful rivers and lakes for the people of Zhejiang.

The year 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Party, the beginning of the 14th Five-Year Plan, and the start of China’s new journey towards modernization. The construction of beautiful rivers and lakes has been included in the top ten livelihood projects of Zhejiang for three consecutive years. In order to fully implement the water governance policy proposed by General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Xi Jinping and ensure a good start in water management during the 14th Five-Year Plan period, local bureaus of water conservancy (hydropower, water affairs) and water management offices (river chief offices) of Ningbo will work harder to carry out the three major actions of improving water environment, water ecology, and water governance under the theme of continuous improvement of water environment quality, so as to heighten the people’s sense of gain and happiness.

(Reporters: Zhou Xuehua, Ye Weihong, Zhang Yuyazhi; Correspondent: Mei Ling)

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