First time China has set out a dedicated strategy to prioritise water quality in lakes.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Finance (MF) have announced a new plan to improve water quality in China’s lakes. Of the 365 lakes included in the plan, 181 have drinkable water; 107 are located in nature reserves; 201 are natural lakes and 164 are reservoirs. By prioritising environmental issues, the plan represents a change from previous environmental governance.
There are 4 main problems with current water quality levels in China. Firstly, lake pollution continues to increase. Secondly, some lakes are drying up as wetland decreases, soil washes away and lakes silt up due to an increase in agricultural and industrial production, along with the increased use of water in people’s daily lives. Thirdly, some lakes do not meet set water quality standards. A 2011 national survey showed that of 214 reservoirs used for drinking water, 9 did not meet set standards. Lastly, most surveys are limited to water quality, which ignores wider issues. Better equipment, training and management are needed and many lakes still need better monitoring, inspection and emergency warning systems.
The lake protection program will be split into five areas across the country. Of these five, the Eastern part contains the most lakes (140) and is also the most economically active. Socio-economic development and rapid economic change have created serious environmental problems for lakes in this area and greater care needs to be made to strengthen their capabilities and biodiversity, as well as promoting responsible fishing. Local governments need to develop financing means and be innovative. Further, while in the past funds from the central government were automatically allocated, the 9.5 billion yuan available for lake water quality protection will now be allocated to local governments presenting the best environmental plans.