Revitalized waterway system hailed by Shanxi

Provincial campaign to improve environment of Fenhe River marks its first success

2020年07月17日09:55  来源:山西日报

Initial progress has been made in improving the environment of Fenhe River after years of efforts by local governments and residents. XUE JUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

When Yuan Lili, a resident of Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, drove home alongside the Huyu Stream on July 11, she said the journey was a more pleasant experience compared to several years ago.

Huyu is a branch of the Fenhe River, the second-largest river in Shanxi. Yuan recalled the former state of Huyu, saying it was a stream filled with wastewater and garbage.

"It was so stinky that you could not roll down your car window,"Yuan said. "But now there is no more garbage or wastewater. The water has become clean and the stream has turned into a scenic belt with trees and grass on both sides."

Yuan said she is pleased with the improved environment of the stream.

Like Huyu, fundamental changes have taken place throughout the Fenhe River water system.

The 716-kilometer-long Fenhe has been a symbol of Shanxi for thousands of years. Running through 45 counties and districts of six cities, the river is the second-largest tributary of the Yellow River.

Since residents began using the Fenhe to irrigate farmlands more than two millennia ago, the river has played an important role in nurturing the local economy.

However, with the development of an economy reliant on coal mining and heavy industries, the river became severely polluted in recent decades.

Yang Wei, a cycling enthusiast, recalled the conditions:"The Fenhe River area was an unpleasant place some 20 years ago.

"It smelt badly with garbage littered everywhere and wastewater discharged into the almost dry river. As there were no trees and grass along the river, the area was often covered in dust in springtime.

"Nobody would want to cycle or walk along the river," Yang added.

Over the past decades, the Fenhe had seen a continued deterioration in its water quality. Water samples at major monitoring points were rated as worse than the grade V standard, according to the Shanxi Department of Ecology and Environment.

Grade V is the standard for the worst water quality in China.

Shanxi began a provincial campaign to improve the environment of the Fenhe and other rivers in 2015. It was marked by the release of a river improvement plan for 2015-30, according to Pan Xianzhang, chief of the Shanxi Department of Ecology and Environment.

Pan said curbing pollution from industrial and household wastewater is the most crucial part of the campaign. Wastewater discharge used to account for about 90 percent of the runoff of the Fenhe River.

"As the river flows across six cities in Shanxi, we have required concerted efforts in pollution control in various regions," Pan said.

The official said the province stepped up its pace in improving the river's environment since May 2019.This was when the provincial government issued a document requiring a fundamental change in the Fenhe's water quality by 2020.

As a result of the joint efforts among various governmental institutions in different regions, Shanxi's river improvement campaign achieved progress this year.

By the end of June, all the monitoring points along the river reported water quality better than grade V.It was the best performance in three decades, according to the Shanxi Department of Ecology and Environment.

With efforts continuing to improve water quality, provincial authorities have launched new moves to increase runoff volume and green the areas along the river.

A great number of wetland parks have been built along the river in recent years.

In Dongjia village of Jinzhong city, villager Kang Liyi operates a grocery store near the point where the Fenhe and Taiyu Stream meet.

"As a wetland park has been established at the confluence, more tourists come to our village and my business is getting better," Kang said.

He added that the wetland park and other embankment enhancing projects have played an important role in flood control, making local farming and people's lives safer.

In the next 15 years, Shanxi will invest more than 87 billion yuan ($12.42 billion) in improving the environment of the Fenhe River, according to Pan.

"We have made initial success this year. However, there is a long way to go to reach satisfactory results in improving the environment of the Fenhe," the official said.