Province moves closer to river protection goals
Fenhe, the largest branch of the Yellow River in Shanxi, has seen 70 percent of its sections reach the nation's excellent and good-level water quality in recent years. [Photo by Wang Pei for China Daily]
With its growing efforts to improve water quality and green its land to prevent soil erosion, Shanxi province is moving closer to its target of becoming an important experimental zone for ecological protection as well as for high-quality development in the Yellow River drainage region.
The 5,464-kilometer Yellow River is the second-longest river in China. It is regarded as the mother river of the nation because it has nurtured the Chinese civilization for millennia.
The Shanxi section of the Yellow River is 965 km in length. More than 73.1 percent of the land in Shanxi belongs to the river's drainage basin, which is home to 73.4 percent of the province's population and makes up the majority of Shanxi's GDP.
As Shanxi is located on the Loess Plateau, where soil erosion has been a severe challenge for millennia, it holds an important position in protecting the ecological environment of the Yellow River.
Shanxi began to implement its strategy to develop into an important experimental zone for ecological protection and high-quality development in the Yellow River drainage region back in 2017. Provincial authorities have put the strategy high on their work agendas.
Officials said efforts to improve the ecological environment of the Yellow River and its tributaries are a combination of measures including greening, controlling soil erosion, economizing the use of water and curbing water pollution.
With regard to greening, Shanxi has seen the annual addition of nearly 270,000 hectares of forests in recent years on average.
A recent survey designed by the Shanxi Forestry and Grassland Administration shows that the province's forest coverage surpassed 25 percent at the end of 2020. The forest coverage will further expand by more than 1 million hectares by the end of 2025.
The administration said that the ever-growing forest and grassland areas will play a crucial role in preventing soil erosion and helping to steadily increase river runoff volume.
In Shanxi, the efforts in soil erosion control also include engineering measures such as building level terraces and facilities for gully head protection.
According to the Shanxi Department of Water Resources, the combination of greening and engineering measures led to a reduction of 55,400 square kilometers of soil-erosion areas in Shanxi and the reduction of 30,000 sq km of such areas in the Yellow River drainage basin in the province by the end of 2021.
Improving water quality is also one of Shanxi's priorities in developing an experimental zone for ecological protection in the Yellow River drainage region.
Fenhe, the largest Yellow River branch in Shanxi, has seen water quality of 70 percent of its sections reach the nation's excellent and good levels in recent years.
Wetland development along the Yellow River and its branches is also key to local ecological protection. According to the Shanxi Department of Water Resources, the province has invested nearly 88 million yuan ($13.07 million) in 49 wetland protection projects in the Yellow River's drainage area.
Shanxi began to harness and improve its rivers about a decade ago. Its innovative practice is to appoint chiefs for each river. A river chief is usually the head of the local government according to each section of the river.
There are a total of 18,000 river chiefs in Shanxi and their responsibility is to ensure that the rivers can maintain a good water quality and good ecological environment.
Han Linfang contributed to this story.