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'Liquor river' protection hailed

By Liu Xiangrui and Yang Jun in Renhuai, Guizhou ( China Daily )

Updated: 2018-07-30

Joint efforts aim to keep a major tributary clean

Authorities in southern China say joint efforts and integrated measures have helped protect the ecology and environment along the Chishui River, a major tributary of the Yangtze River.

The Chishui is known as the "liquor river", as thousands of Chinese liquor factories line its banks, including top brands such as Kweichow Moutai.

It is estimated that the combined output value of factories in the river basin runs to hundreds of billions of yuan, forming an important manufacturing cluster along the Yangtze River Economic Belt.

As the only tributary of the Yangtze unaffected by dams or industrial development, the Chishui is a key protected area for biodiversity and is seen as a crucial ecological screen for the upper reaches of the Yangtze.

Originating in Yunnan province, the trunk of the Chishui stretches 436 kilometers, with the vast majority flowing through Guizhou province. It joins the Yangtze in Sichuan province.

In 2014, the area was listed as a national experimental river basin for the building of an ecological civilization.

Since then, authorities have established a pioneering protection system based on local conditions, introducing measures such as ecological compensation, ecological red lines, an environmental protection judiciary and cross-province coordination.

The acceleration of ecological and environmental management along the Chishui has effectively improved its water quality and ecology, said Jiang Jianqiang, director of the general office of Guizhou's Environmental Protection Department.

Data from the provincial Water Resources Bureau show the surface water quality along the waterway is Grade III or higher, based on China's five-level quality standards, and that overall water quality has remained stable since 2013.

Guizhou's leaders have repeatedly visited the basin to direct protection work. They have introduced several strategies to enhance protection of the river since 2011.

Among those was the 5.6 billion yuan ($822 million) Comprehensive Plan to Protect the Chishui River Basin, which set a target to carry out 501 projects in nine categories between 2013 and 2020 to tackle problems such as urban sewage, garbage and industrial pollution treatment and control.

The plan divided the river basin into three parts, with protection measures designed to meet their respective goals.

According to official data, since 2015, the province has spent about 50 million yuan a year to protect the river.

In addition, Guizhou has strengthened cooperation with various authorities along the river - including setting up a joint compensation fund for ecological protection of the Chishui River basin with Yunnan and Sichuan - and helped establish a joint prevention and control mechanism for ecological and environment problems along the upper portions of the Yangtze.

"Local governments along the river can't just hoe their own potatoes. Protecting the Chishui River requires the combined efforts of all three provinces," said Sun Zhongfa in Guizhou's Environmental Inspection Bureau.

This year, Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan signed a horizontal ecological compensation deal, agreeing to invest 200 million yuan a year into environmental treatment along the Chishui.

Contributions will vary based on each province's economic benefits from the river.

'Liquor river' protection hailed

It is the first river basin to be covered by such a compensation mechanism.

Enterprises including Kweichow Moutai, the world's most valuable liquor maker, are also helping to protect the river's ecology.

"Moutai wouldn't have existed without the healthy ecosystem along the Chishui," said Li Baofang, chairman and general manager of Kweichow Moutai Group, which uses water directly from the river to make its liquor. "The river is Moutai's life."

Chishui means "red water" in Chinese - the name was inspired by the river's red sediment.

The water only becomes clear during certain seasons, Li said, adding that microorganisms in the water are believed to be key to the flavor of local liquors.

In recent years, Kweichow Moutai has invested 468 million yuan to build five sewage-processing plants with a combined annual capacity of more than 2 million metric tons, and has donated about 500 million yuan since 2014 to the ecological compensation fund, Li said.

According to Luo Xiaoyong, deputy director of the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission, part of the Ministry of Water Resources, the Chishui is one of the most representative tributaries in the Yangtze basin.

It is home to more than one-third of the fish species native to the upper reaches of the Yangtze, and guarding it is crucial for the protection of those species, he said.

"The importance of the Chishui was made clear a long time ago," Luo said. "The decision to not build any hydroelectric projects along the main stream, in line with the comprehensive plan for the whole Yangtze basin, laid a solid foundation for the protection of the Chishui,"

He added that the protection efforts provide a good example for other regions.

Li Hanyi contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at liuxiangrui@chinadaily.com.cn

'Liquor river' protection hailed

(China Daily 07/30/2018 page5)

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