On Dec. 24, the seventh Central Environmental Protection Inspection Team informed Qinghai Province on the environmental inspection it carried out between Aug. 8 and Sept. 8. The meeting was chaired by Governor of the provincial government Wang Jianjun. Chief Inspector Yang Song delivered the report, and Secretary of the provincial Party committee Wang Guosheng made responses. Deputy Chief Inspector Huang Runqiu, 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 since 2013, the provincial Party committee and government have followed the important instructions of Secretary General Xi Jinping, made strenuous efforts to build national ecological security barriers and made notable progress in ecological conservation and environmental protection. Qinghai has established a leading group for building ecological civilization, which is co-chaired by the provincial Party committee and government, and put the province in a position as an ecological priority area, a pioneer in developing circular economy, and a pilot area for institutional reform.
A preliminary framework for building ecological civilization and protecting the environment has been outlined, consisting of relevant regulations, implementation plans and guidance.
Moreover, Qinghai has pressed ahead with the piloting of the Sanjiangyuan National Park, and set up a national park administration that both manages natural resources and assets and regulates the uses of geographical space. The piloting has made breakthroughs in addressing the multi-department jurisdiction over water resources, and the fragmentation of environmental enforcement. Also, Hoh Xil was listed as a World Natural Heritage Site. The ecological environment in Muli Mine and Qilian Mountains has been improved. The forest coverage had grown from 5.23 percent in 2012 to 6.3 percent in 2016. The plantation area reached 4 mil. mu in 2017.
The major cities have made greater efforts in air pollution control. In 2016, the percentage of clean air and fairly clean air days averaged out at 88 percent at the seats of prefectural governments across the province. Xining was the first northwestern city to have completed the “gas for coal” project in its city proper. The water quality reached Grade I standard at the Yangtze River and Lancang River sections and Grade II standard at the Yellow River and Heihe River sections where the rivers flow out of the province.
Qinghai 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 2,299 environmental cases handed over by the inspection team had been concluded. Specifically, 2,021 firms had been ordered to make rectifications, 47 firms had been filed a case with the authority and punished with a combined penalty of 3.8 mil. yuan. Four cases had been under investigation. Thirty persons had been kept in custody, 195 persons had been summoned for admonitory talks, and 184 persons had been held accountable.
The inspectors pointed out that Qinghai plays a major role in safeguarding national ecological security, considering its extremely vulnerable ecological environment and as the headwaters of the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Lancang River. The province has made positive progress in ecological conservation, but environmental problems remained in certain sectors and areas.
First, the awareness of ecological conservation first was not firmly borne in mind, and environmental protection still made way for economic growth. The Party committees and governments at all levels in Qinghai were still reluctant to embrace the new development philosophies. Qinghai Lake is a national nature reserve, however, the tourism plans formulated by the lake administration, and the tourism and development departments specified the bird islet and sand islet in the core zone of the reserve as major tourism destinations, which is apparently contradict to the reserve’s functions and regulatory requirements.
The green performance evaluation was misguided and the work was slack. For example, of the 35 water pollution control projects designated by the provincial people’s government to further tackle water pollution in Huangshui River Basin and supposed to have been completed between 2013 and 2016, six were left unfinished, and five were even not initiated by the time of inspection. The annual evaluation was mere formality. The provincial water pollution control plans postponed the deadlines for closing down or relocating animal husbandry farms inside restricted areas to the year 2020, instead of 2017 as specified by the national action plan.
Second, irregular tourism development was a prominent problem to nature reserves, which slowed down the ecological restoration progress. The bird islet and sand islet of Qinghai Lake house a considerable amount of tourism infrastructure and have accepted 782,900 and 848,100 tourists since 2013. The hotels and restaurants in the rim of the lake occupied more than 140,000 m2 grassland, which damaged the grassland vegetation and discharged untreated wastewater. The unapproved plantation of Lycium chinensis in Dulan section of Haloxylon ammodendron Nature Reserve and of Lycium ruthenicum in But Baruch Lake-Plain Lake Nature Reserve in Tsaidam Basin encroached the core zone and buffer zone of the reserves by 32,000 mu and 5,520 mu respectively.
The ecological restoration of mines was slow. Forty-seven out of the 129 abandoned mine environmental treatment projects supposed to have been completed by the end of 2015 were half done by the time of inspection. Moreover, the environmental management of active mines was unsatisfactory. One hundred and eleven out of the 244 mining firms certified by the land resources department did not formulate any ecological restoration plan.
The hydropower development disrupted the ecological environment of certain rivers. There are over 200 hydropower stations across the province, most of which are at small and medium scale. The hydropower development was intensive and not well-planned; without proper measures to guarantee the base flow, the 21 small hydropower stations caused dry-up of river segments in Huangshui River this year. It was the same case in Datong River basin.
Since 2013, 21 industrial and mining projects have violated regulations and encroached 16,400 mu grasslands.
Third, some of the prominent environmental problems remained unsolved. The water pollution was not well treated in Huangshui River basin. The slow infrastructure development in Xining left 60,000 t untreated municipal wastewater and 40,000 t overly polluted wastewater discharged into Huangshui River every day.
The municipal solid wastes were not treated appropriately and posed pollution hazards. The 10 landfill sites in Xining have been running with a workload that was twice the designed capacity. The leachate generated every day registered 190 t, whereas the treatment capacity was merely 90 t/day. Six out of the 27 planned township landfill sites in Haidong had not been completed by the end of 2015.
The environmental regulation of industrial parks was in slow progress. With little environmental infrastructure, there were only seven wastewater treatment plants in 16 national and provincial industrial parks, and only three were put into operation. The air pollution control facilities were insufficient in some of the enterprises in Ganhe industrial park, without any dust removal or desulfurization facility or with eroded desulfurization facility.
The environmental management was at a low level in some of the firms in Haixi Tsaidam Circular Economy Experimental Zone.
The inspection team demanded that Qinghai thoroughly implement the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress of the CPC and the Xi Jinping thought on building ecological civilization, the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on promoting ecological progress and environmental protection, and shoulder the political responsibility for building ecological civilization. The province should work harder at building the ecological security barriers, establish the green development philosophy, go all out to develop the Sanjiangyuan National Park, and continue with the ecological restoration of Qilian Mountain Nature Reserve and Muli Mine. Also, it should straighten out the mechanisms to manage and protect Qinghai Lake and other nature reserves, and systematically advance the conservation and restoration of mountain, water, forest, farmland, lake, and grassland ecosystems. It should further implement the air, water, and soil pollution control action plans, advance the optimization of industrial structures in major industrial parks, and regulate the hydropower development to guarantee ecological base flow. For the problems revealed by the inspection, the province should 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 Qinghai 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.)