Action plan for protecting Yellow River unveiled

An action plan for protecting and restoring the Yellow River has been unveiled by twelve central state agencies led by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

The campaign has been given urgency by President Xi Jinping, who once said “The Yangtze River is sick, the Yellow River is even sicker”. The campaign is one of eight environmental protection campaigns announced last November by the Party Central Committee and the State Council, which also includes one to protect the Yangtze River.

The Yellow River plan sets both qualitative and quantitative targets for 2025. It aims to achieve “steady improvement of the quality and stability of the ecosystems” of the river basin, and to guarantee water quantity, quality and rhythm that can sustain such ecosystems. 

Quantitative targets for the basin include forest coverage (21.58%), erosion prevention (67.74% of land with no significant erosion) and desertification control (1.36 million hectares managed), restoration of degraded natural forests (700,000 hectares), and improvement of water quality of the river and lake systems. 

To achieve these goals, the plan seeks to identify and control sources of pollution from both urban and rural areas, to expedite the clean and low-carbon transition of industries, and to control herding, crop farming and damaging of vegetation in the upper reaches of the Yellow River. 

It calls for a series of policy innovations to ensure the campaign’s success. The primary one is speeding up the passing of the Yellow River Protection Law, which went through a first round of deliberation by lawmakers in December 2021.

It calls for an improved ecological compensation system between different jurisdictions in the river basin, green finance, trading of the rights of pollution discharge, water and carbon emissions, compulsory liability insurance for pollution, and corporate environmental information disclosure.

It also encourages private capital to participate in the protection of the river, by for example launching and managing satellites for ecological surveys.