Lai Haibin, director of the Guangdong provincial environmental inspection office, said many local officials and residents thought it was impossible to treat the Lianjiang because it was so polluted. The local authorities were hesitant about investing in pollution control measures in the river basin.
However, in the 18 months after the inspectors left Shantou in 2018, the city invested 23.9 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) on major pollution control projects in the basin area, including the expansion of 10 sewage treatment plants and their supporting pipe networks, Lai said.
On Jan 1, 2019, the city authorities suspended the operations of 183 textile printing and dyeing factories in the river basin, accelerating the construction of special industrial parks with complete sewage treatment facilities. Many companies have since moved into these parks.
In addition, sewage pipes have been extended to all villages in the river basin. The low proportion of wastewater collected for disposal, and the direct discharge of sewage, have been addressed, according to the local authorities.
From 2018 to last year, the river's water quality rose from below Grade V, the worst level in the nation's five-tier quality system for surface water, to Grade IV－the best quality the Lianjiang had seen since 2004.
Zhai, the vice-minister, said the direct discharge of sewage into the river was just one of a large number of environmental problems that went unresolved for an extended period.
When the first round of inspections concluded in 2018, a total of 3,294 major violations were found to require rectification, Zhai said. To date, 95 percent of these cases have been resolved.
Despite only the first three of six inspections in the second round being completed by the middle of last year, rectifications have now been made to 50 percent of the 1,227 violations that were found, he added.
Zhai said one of the first things inspectors do after they arrive in an area is to provide the public with their contact details. To date, members of the public have reported some 287,000 local environmental problems, and the vast majority of them have been resolved.
The inspections have set many regions on a green development path, with ecological protection the priority to balance economic, environmental and social gains, Zhai said.
"In recent years, the inspections have increased the public appeal of Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization," he said.
There has been a high degree of consensus within the Party and throughout society that "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets", he said. This concept was first put forward by Xi when he was the top official in Zhejiang province in 2005.
Different levels of Party committees and governments have attached significantly more importance to the construction of ecological civilization and ecological and environmental protection.
Kong Shu, who lives near the Lianjiang in Shantou, was quoted by China Environment News as saying that tremendous changes have been made to the river.
"We used to stay away from it as much as possible. Now, the greenways and parks near the river are bustling, especially at night. People are happy to stroll, sing and dance by the Lianjiang," Kong said.
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form.