On Dec. 22, the fifth Central Environmental Protection Inspection Team informed Sichuan Province on the environmental inspection it carried out between Aug. 7 and Sept. 7. The meeting was chaired by Governor of the provincial government Yin Li. Chief Inspector Zhu Zhixin delivered the report, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Wang Dongming made responses. Deputy Chief Inspector Liu Hua, inspectors concerned, the leaderships of the provincial Party committee and provincial government, and the heads of relevant departments attended the meeting.
The inspectors held that the provincial Party committee and provincial government have made constant progress in promoting the environmental protection work since 2013. They have resolutely implemented the Xi Jinping thoughts and instructions on building ecological civilization, as well as the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on ecological conservation, and strived to mount a solid ecological barrier in the upstream of the Yangtze River. Over 14 reform plans and 19 local regulations have been promulgated on building ecological civilization. Fifty eight counties and districts have been exempted from GDP assessment because they are either tasked with ecosystem function protection or major targets of national poverty alleviation programs which are ecologically vulnerable. The emphasis of growth has been placed on better quality and benefits. In 2016, the percentage of the tertiary industry surpassed the secondary industry, which signaled a historic change in the economic structure.
The province has also actively piloted the national park system and established 167 nature reserves and 90 scenic areas. It has taken the lead in the country and finalized the ecological conservation red lines in September last year. A leading group headed by the Governor has been set up to fight the air, water, and soil pollution. The mean annual readings of PM2.5 and PM10 dropped from January through July in 2017. Ten sections under the national monitoring program met national standard, with the emphasis on Minjiang River, Tuojiang River, and Jialing River basins.
The province has attached great importance to the central environmental protection inspection, seriously investigated and punished the environmental cases reported by the people, and made them public. By Oct. 31, all of the 8,966 environmental cases handed over by the inspection team had been concluded. Specifically, 9,473 firms had been ordered to make rectifications, 2,268 firms had been filed a case with the authority and punished with a combined penalty of 49.35 mil. yuan. Seventy two cases had been under investigation. Forty eight persons had been kept in custody, 1,294 persons had been summoned for admonitory talks, and 1,293 persons had been held accountable.
The inspectors pointed it out that in spite of improved ecological environment, the province still fell short of the requirements of the central authorities and the public expectations. The main problems are as below.
First, some of the local governments and departments failed to fully perform the ecological conservation responsibilities. For example, Zigong has been weak in promoting environmental protection tasks, and did not accomplish the PM10, PM2.5, and clean air objectives in 2016. In 2017, the water quality attainment rate dropped from 50 percent in 2013 to 11.1 percent in 2016. In Dazhou, around 30,000 t untreated municipal wastewater was discharged into rivers on a daily basis, due to an uncompleted project on wastewater treatment for three straight years.
The provincial land resources department approved or renewed the mining or mineral extraction privileges inside nature reserves, which wreaked havoc on the ecosystems. The provincial economic and information service committee left behind 1,221 coal-fired small boilers that should have been phased out by July 2017. The housing and urban-rural development department and prefectural cities concerned were slack in infrastructure development. Only 17 out of the 81 projects on municipal wastewater treatment specified by the 12th Five-Year Plan had been accomplished. Twenty six out of the 37 sludge treatment projects were left halfway in cities and counties.
Moreover, some of the local cities were fraudulent in the performance evaluation of the environmental protection target responsibility system.
Second, certain tributaries of the Yangtze River faced daunting challenges in meeting water quality standards. In 2016, about 30 percent of the monitoring sections in Sichuan reach of the Yangtze River mainstream, Jinsha River, Tuojiang River, Minjiang River, and Jialing River did not attain water quality standards; 72.4 percent of the 87 surface water sections achieved excellent or good water quality, falling short of the annual target by 4.6 percent.
In one of the primary tributaries of Yangtze River, Tuojiang, 66.7 percent of the 38 sections under national or provincial monitoring programs met Grade IV or Grade V standard in 2016, up from 29.0 percent in 2013. Sixty seven out of the 71 wastewater treatment plants in the basin were not upgraded as scheduled. The 20 mil. m3 phosphogypsum depository in Mianzhu City led to excessive level of TP in one of the tributaries of Tuojiang. The municipal wastewater discharged by about 170,000 urban residents in Jianyang went untreated.
In Minjiang basin, the attainment rate registered only 61.5 percent in 2016. Meishan Municipality in the middle reaches of Minjiang River did not control the watershed water pollution very well, so the tributaries of the river couldn’t meet Grade V standard and contributed significantly to water pollution to its mainstream.
The wastewater treatment plant in the city proper of Emeishan Municipality was not running regularly because the raw wastewater was at a low level of pollution due to mixture of wastewater with rainwater.
Third, the air pollution control was inadequate in certain regions. Chengdu saw clean air in 60.5 percent of the days throughout the year 2016, down 2.6 percent from 2014. The heavy-duty diesel fueled vehicles and non-road mobile machinery contributed significantly to air pollution.
Deyang saw fewer clean air days over the three years from 2014 to 2016, and the percentage declined from 74.2 percent to 67.8 percent. The PM10 and PM2.5 readings went up in the first six months this year. Of the 114 brick and tile makers, 90 were void of dust removal facilities and 105 did not have de-SOx facilities.
Fourth, certain areas suffered prominent problems with ecosystems. The nature reserves across the province were plight with environmental problems. For example, a national nature reserve dedicated to the protection of rare and endemic fishes in the Yangtze River housed 19 yards, 57 sand depository sites, one building material manufacturer and a concrete agitation station.
The 4,871 hydropower stations resulted in less or zero runoff in some river segments due to poor engineering and monitoring technologies. The intensive hydropower development in Qingyi River and Dadu River basins seriously undermined the ecosystem functions.
The inspectors demanded that Sichuan Province thoroughly implement the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress of the CPC and the thoughts of General Secretary Xi Jinping on building ecological civilization, and shoulder their political responsibility for promoting ecological progress. They should solve prominent environmental problems on the one hand, and work faster to establish a long-term mechanism on the other hand, make systematic and comprehensive plans and strategies, and promote the water pollution control in Tuojiang, Minjiang and other Yangtze River tributaries as well as the air pollution control in Chengdu plain. Moreover, it should work harder to ask the Party committees and governments to take equal responsibility for environmental protection and implement the “one position with dual responsibility” system, pursue liability in accordance with laws and regulations, order relevant departments to further probe the identified problems, clarify the liabilities and conduct accountability seriously.
The inspection team emphasized that the provincial Party committee and provincial government should work out a rectification plan soon based on the Environmental Protection Inspection Program (on trial) and the above results, and report back to the State Council within 30 working days. The rectification plan and the results will be made public.
The team also straightened out the cases on the accountability for local ecological damages, and handed them over to the provincial Party committee and provincial government for further processing.
(This English version is for your reference only.In case any discrepancy exists between the Chinese and English context, the Chinese version shall prevail.)