China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment launched a massive project in March this year to identify and clean up sources of pollution that lead into the Yangtze River. It was recently reported that the pilot program is already in full swing in Taizhou, Jiangsu province.
The program is divided into three investigative phases, and it has already entered phase three in Taizhou. The first phase is identification of pollution sources and data collection, mainly through the use of satellites, drones and high-resolution optic camera technology. In Taizhou, the Satellite Environment Application Center of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has set up the Nation’s first remote sensing application base to monitor the ecological situation in the city and surrounding areas. Used together, the drones and satellite technology can cover a very wide area and capture extremely accurate photos, shedding light on the location of the pollution sources.
The second phase relies on human labor to visit points of suspected pollution and assess the situation. From March 18 to 21, 130 people organized into 40 groups conducted investigations into suspected pollution sources and verified the data. A phone app is being used as a platform for data collection. Suspected sources of pollution identified from satellite and drone pictures in phase one were uploaded onto the platform, and workers in the field used the app to supplement data and confirm or deny the existence of these different points. Points that are underwater were accessed by an unmanned ship and an underwater drone. By combining technology and manpower from the sky, land and water, a network of data has been created that “leaves pollution no place to hide”.
Taizhou recently came under scrutiny for its environmental record. In 2018, the Central Environmental Protection Supervision Group launched a “look back” campaign, which revealed many serious cases of environmental pollution in different districts around China. The campaign specifically called out Taixing District of Taizhou city, and the media also reported on stories of pollution in the city. In June of last year, the Taizhou government “declared war” on pollution.
On May 19, the third phase of the project began — rectification. In this phase, 12,369 complaints will be investigated. According to local documents, the distinguishing feature of this project is the high levels of cooperation between different departments and levels of government. Local citizens have also helped out by giving rides on their electric scooters to fieldwork sites and alerting investigators to the location of hidden sources of pollution.