The Regulations on the Management of the Taihu Lake Basins is to be officially enforced as of November 1, 2011. What makes the State Council decide to develop these regulations? And what schemes are identified by these regulations? The reporter has an interview with a senior official from the State Council Legislative Affairs Office.
Specifying detailed measures suited to the particular conditions of the Taihu Lake Basins
Q: Why to develop these regulations?
A: The regulations are developed to meet three needs.
1) The need for safeguarding the sustainable development of the economy and society of the Taihu Lake Basins. Taihu Lake basins are located in the hinterland of the Yangtze River Delta and run throughout Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province, and Shanghai Municipality. Being densely populated and economically developed, the basins face great pressure in terms of resources and environment. So, to step up the water resources conservation and water pollution control of the Taihu Lake Basins through legislation is very important to advancing the shift of economic development mode and safeguarding the ecological safety of the lake basins.
2) The need for consolidating the achievements in the integrated water environment treatment of the Taihu Lake Basins. The State Council has always highly valued the water resources conservation and water pollution control efforts in the lake basins. It approved the Master Plan for the Integrated Water Environment Treatment of Taihu Lake Basins in 2008, officially inaugurating the integrated water environment treatment of the lake basins. It also approved the Plan for Division of Water Function Zones in the Taihu Lake Basins in the year 2010. Remarkable achievements have been made in the lake basins in terms of drinking water safety, water resources conservation, and water pollution control in recent years. In order to consolidate the established achievements in the integrated water environment treatment, legislations are needed to make the measures that are proven effective to become standards and schemes.
3) The need for better enforcing water law, water pollution control law, and other laws. Taihu Lake basins are special in terms of natural conditions and socioeconomic development stage in comparison with other basins. More relevant and specific measures need to be put in place in light of the special situations of the Taihu Lake basins, on the precondition that these measures do not conflict with the higher-level laws, and following the guidelines of "setting high standards, proposing rigorous requirements, and adopting stronger and more resolute measures", in order to better enforce the water law, water pollution control law and other laws.
Dismantling and shutting down the wastewater outlets and landfill sites in the conservation areas
Q: The safety of drinking water is a close concern to the public, what are the specifications about this in the regulations?
A: The regulations highlight the matter of safe drinking water by the following specifications.
1) Stepping up the conservation of source water. Local people's governments are requested to rationally designate source water, delineate source water conservation areas, set up the regular patrol and monitoring schemes, and dismantle and shut down the wastewater outlets and landfill sites in the conservation areas.
2) Establishing the emergency water supply scheme. Local people's governments are requested to transform unqualified water supply facilities, prepare emergency water sources that are able to sustain seven consecutive days of normal water supply, and advance the joint water supply projects sitting across administrative regions.
3) Setting standards for the response to water safety incidents. Local people's governments are requested to conduct real-time monitoring on the water quality of source water, in the water supply facilities, and in the residential water intakes, increase the monitoring frequencies and sites in special periods such as during the outbreak of the blue algae, take preventive and control measures and initiate the contingency plan as soon as water quality is found abnormal, and priority will be given to safeguarding the drinking water of the residents.
The top priority is to meet the domestic water demand and keep the Taihu Lake at a reasonable water level.
Q: What are the regulations on water resources conservation?
A: Under the institutional framework of the water law, there are specific regulations in the document on water resources conservation in accordance with the local conditions of the lake basins.
1) The regulations identify the principle for water resources regulation, that is, to unify the efforts and assign responsibilities based on levels. The top priority is given to meeting domestic water demand and keeping the Taihu Lake at a reasonable water level. On this basis, the regulations set standards for the ceiling of water intake and water project regulation of key regions including Taihu Lake, Taipu River, Xinmeng River, and Wangyu River.
2) The regulations request stepping up the monitoring and treatment of water function zones, identify that the development and utilization of the Taihu Lake basins meet the requirements for the protection of water function zones. If the section of an inflowing river into the lake fails to meet the water quality goal, the entry of the river will be blocked and the river concerned will be treated, on the condition of no negative impact on the flood control.
3) The regulations improve the water conservation, dredging, and groundwater protection schemes, encourage the use of reclaimed water, improve the water efficiency, request local people's governments to organize on a regular basis the dredging in an environment-friendly way, and forbid the exploitation of groundwater without permissions.
Establishing the scheme for the control of total pollutant load in the lake basins
Q: Water pollution control is one of the priority tasks in the Taihu Lake basins, what are the institutional innovations in the regulations?
A: The regulations have some new provisions on water pollution control, on the basis of summarizing the practices and experience and in accordance with the guideline of adjusting the structure and promoting transformations.
1) Establishing the scheme for the control of total pollutant load in the lake basins. In the meantime, the regulations forbid in the lake basins the projects that are engaged in the paper-making, leather-making, alcohol, starch, metallurgy, brewing, printing and dyeing, and electroplating industries and that emit water pollutants and that do not comply with State industrial policies and the integrated water environment treatment requirements. The established projects that fail to meet the emission standards will be shut down in accordance with law.
2) Giving special protection on key regions. Learning from the local experience in legislation, conservation regions are to be delineated within and along the banks of Taihu Lake, Dianshan Lake, Taipu River, Xinmeng River, Wangyu River, and other major inflow rivers into the lake. In the conservation regions, new and expanded projects on chemical industry and pharmaceutical production as well as golf courses are prohibited, so are the storage and transport facilities of deadly toxic substances and hazardous chemicals, waste recovery sites, landfill sites, waterborne catering facilities, and new and expanded sewage outlets apart from the outlets of centralized wastewater treatment facilities.
3) Stepping up the collection and treatment of urban and rural domestic wastewater. The regulations propose that in five years, all of the domestic wastewater in the towns resident with local people's governments at or above county level and the major towns in Taihu Lake basins will be pumped into the public sewage network and treated by centralized wastewater treatment facilities; local people's governments should install wastewater and garbage collection facilities in the rural communities, to collect the wastewater and garbage and treat them.
4) Tightening the measures on the prevention and control of water pollution by ships. The ships loaded with deadly toxic substances and hazardous chemicals will be prohibited from the Taihu Lake. There are also regulations on the prevention and control of water pollution by the crop farming and breeding farms.
Establishing the cross-region ecological benefit compensation mechanism
Q: What measures are proposed by the regulations to ensure the mechanism is implemented?
A: The supporting mechanism and supervision measures in the regulations can be generalized as follows, "leading by the industrial policy, regulation by the economic leverage, and constraint by the administration supervision".
1) Giving full play to the leading role of the industrial policy. The regulations request local governments to adjust the economic structure, optimize the industrial layout, strictly limit water-intensive and highly polluting construction projects, rationally develop the shelter forests for ecological conservation, step up the conservation on wetlands and waterborne biological resources, and promote the ecological restoration of the lake basins.
2) Reasonably reflect the regulation function of the economic leverage. The regulations propose to set up the cross-region ecological benefits compensation mechanism and specify that the upstream region needs to compensate for the downstream region if the former fails to implement the plan for the reduction and control of total pollutant load of key water pollutants, or the water quality in the cross-administrative-region sections fail to meet the water quality goal for the period of time; and vice versa. In the meantime, the governments will give supports to companies that engage in emissions reduction and peasants that switch to other lines of business, through the fiscal policy, credits, subsidies, training programs, and social security.
3) Stepping up the constraint mechanism through administrative supervision. The regulations establish the scheme for the evaluation of the target responsibility, and conduct annual evaluation at all levels on the performance in fulfilling the water resources conservation and water pollution control goals. The environmental reviews for the construction projects and for the permission of water intake and setup of sewage outlets will be suspended if the region fails to complete the plan for the reduction and control of total pollutant load, fail to dismantle and shut down illegal facilities, and approve new and expanded projects that contribute to pollution. The regulations also provide corresponding punishment measures for all sort of no compliance of environmental laws & regulations.