China"s top water resources watchdog will conduct both open and secret inspections, and establish a supervision system with strengthened public participation, to ensure that river and lake chiefs fulfill their obligations to protect the water bodies, a senior official said.
During a strict Ministry of Water Resources evaluation of the performance of river and lake chiefs last year, more than 4,600 officials were held accountable for violations in water bodies they oversaw, Wei Shanzhong, vice-minister of water resources, told a news conference on Thursday.
Wei said the ministry carried out two rounds of secret inspections in the second half of last year that covered all major cities. The watchdog has made public an email address, and many local governments have announced hotlines to accept public tips to help uncover violations in water bodies.
An online platform will also be launched soon to expose violations as the ministry strengthens public participation to supervise the work of river and lake chiefs.
China"s river and lake chief system extended across the country by the end of last year, with almost 1.3 million chiefs.
While more than 300,000 river chiefs from provincial to township levels have been appointed across the country, some areas have extended the system by appointing 930,000 chiefs at the village level, which is not required by the central authorities. Sixty of the river chiefs Party chiefs or governors of provincial-level regions.
About 57,000 lake chiefs have also assumed duties to protect 14,000 lakes across the country, with 85 of them provincial-level officials, the ministry said.
The central authorities released a document in November 2016 ordering the nationwide establishment of a river chief system, with senior officials at every government level taking full responsibility for protecting water bodies in their regions, by the end of 2018. Another document, published in late 2017, demanded the appointment of chiefs for the country"s lakes by the same deadline.
The system links the performance evaluations of top officials to the protection of water bodies. Many local water resources officials have hailed the system as an effective measure to combat water pollution as the chiefs, who are senior officials, can mobilize resources from various departments to contribute to water protection.