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People’s Republic of China Water Action: Downstream to Upstream Cleanup

People’s Republic of China Water Action: Downstream to Upstream Cleanup

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Oct 25, 2012
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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

People’s Republic of China: Downstream to Upstream Cleanup
May 2009

By Maria Corazon Ebarvia Sanitation and Wastewater Management Specialist Pollution and siltation have plagued the Jiulongjiang River until the Fujian provincial government invested RMB3 billion in river cleanup in 1999. Has the investment paid off? REDUCING RIVER POLLUTION The Jiulongjiang river system, flowing from the mountains northwest of Zhangzhou City in Fujian Province and emptying into Taiwan Strait, has been suffering from siltation and pollution. The culprits were soil erosion, inappropriate land use in the higher slopes, construction of a hydropower station, runoffs from agricultural areas, uncontrolled waste discharges from hog farms, and solid waste and wastewater from domestic and industrial sources. Nutrient loading, particularly in the estuary, comes from river runoff, domestic sewage, sewage plants, farms, aquaculture and industries. In 1999, the Fujian government poured RMB3 billion into plans and actions for water pollution control and ecological management of the Jiulongjiang River. Six years later, the river is clearly in the process of positive transformation. By 2005, total discharge of COD (chemical oxygen demand), ammonium-nitrogen, and phosphorus in the basin has been reduced. Four treatment plants for domestic solid waste and 9 sewage treatment plants were constructed. Green practices were also applied in livestock farming, including Relocating or closing down more than 5,000 environment-unfriendly hog farms, covering about 3 million square meters of land Building up more than 0.1 million cubic meters of methane or oxygenation ponds Constructing a composting plant for manure in Longyan City with a capacity of 20,000 tons a year Promoting an eco-model for hog-farming, methane production, and fruit growth Establishing a demonstration site for ecological cattle farming in Xiamen. In addition, under new laws that took effect in February 2009, no hog farm can be located within one kilometer and no new farms can be established within five kilometers from the Jiulongjiang River. PROGRESS VERSUS PRESERVATION Stretching 258 kilometers and with a basin area of 14,745 square kilometers, the Jiulongjiang River is the second largest river in Fujian province. It runs through 19 counties in the prefectures of Longyan, Zhangzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou, and Sanming, with 88.3% of the basin area inside Longyan and Zhangzhou. The river supplies 584 million tons of water for industrial use annually, while the 3 cities in the basin, Longyan, Zhanzhou and Xiamen, consume an annual 1.6 million tons of water for domestic uses. As of 2005, the three cities of Xiamen, Zhangzhou and Longyan have a total population of 3.29 million people. The basin’s gross domestic product (GDP) accounts for 26% of Fujian province’s total GDP. Siltation and sedimentation in the Jiulongjiang River have made the river shallow, while pollution has resulted in poor water quality, particularly in the river’s estuary. Near the coastal areas, natural habitats of rare and endangered species, such as the Chinese white dolphins, horseshoe crabs, and egrets, have been degraded. Fisheries, tourism, shipping, and other industries have also been seriously affected. The challenge to the Fujian government was how to balance environmental protection and preservation measures with economic development both in the upper and lower reaches of the Jiulongjiang River. And the government knew that it would require a long-term process, involving raising awareness, changing practices, proper coordination, finding suitable technologies, and financing, to revive the river. REPLICATING COASTAL MODELS Before embarking on the Jiulongjiang River’s rehabilitation, the Fujian government was successful in the cleanups of the Yuandang Lagoon and Xiamen Harbor, transforming filthy and heavily polluted waters into healthy bodies capable of supporting aquatic life. The price of land around the lagoon has increased, adding to economic and social development. The aesthetic and environmental improvements have further attracted investments, contributing to double-digit GDP growth rates.

The lagoon and harbor have now become centers of recreational and cultural activities, contributing to a better quality of life for Fujian residents. Realizing the gains from the cleanup investments and the huge net benefits from the integrated coastal management of the downstream area, the Fujian government is now bent on applying the lessons from these coastal models of environmental restoration to address the challenges posed by Jiulongjiang River basin. LONG-TERM RIVER REHABILITATION Today, a program for monitoring land-based pollution discharges in Xiamen, including pollution load from the Jiulongjiang River, is in place. The desired changes will take time and the measurement of progress will involve a timeline of decades rather than years. The Fujian government, however, is not without ideas and prior experience. An integrated coastal management program, successfully implemented in Xiamen, is now being linked with the integrated water resources management program currently being introduced in the Jiulongjiang River basin. Previous sectoral “business as usual” approaches have been thrown out the window in favor of integration and harmony among various agencies, sectors, and programs. Other long-term tasks in the Jiulongjiang River’s revival, include: Controlling pollution from poultry and hog raising industry Controlling water loss and soil erosion Improving farming types and methods and promoting scientific and standardized application of fertilizers and pesticides Promoting models for controlling non-point pollution sources in rural areas Promoting the building of ecological agriculture and ecological villages Establishing a mechanism to facilitate integrated river basin management The Juilongjiang River still has some way to go before the cleanup can be considered a resounding success but the Fujian government has already made considerable progress.

_______________________________ *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in May 2009: http://www.adb.org/Water/Actions/prc/river-cleanup.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADB’s member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADB’s Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.

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