China’s water policies cover a variety of subjects concerning water pollution, including marine pollution, river pollution, and lake pollution, but also extending to areas like flood control and water saving. Due to the country’s vast geographic expanse, its policies often direct effort to certain focus regions, which are currently the economic centres of China. Those policies have also differentiated between objectives related to prevention, treatment, and monitoring, as well as the source of pollution for waterbodies.
- Almost half of the policies name the Yangtze River, Jing-Jin-Ji area, and/or the Pearl River as focus regions. Of these three regions, there has been a recent shift in focus toward comprehensive rehabilitation of the Yangtze. The Action Plan for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Yangtze River and Measures for the Monitoring and Early Warning of Water Environmental Quality in the Yangtze River Basin (for Trial Implementation) are the most recent water policies to be implemented. The Action Plan in particular outlines the areas with the worst quality and calls out 10 industries, including paper making, coking, nitrogen fertilizer, non-ferrous metals, printing and dyeing, etc., as the focus of specially targeted treatment measures. Policy also gravitates toward the marine environment as a broad focus region, as the most recent water policies deal with either the Yangtze or marine pollution. The shift toward marine pollution appears to be an extension of concern for river pollution. For example, treatment of pollution in rivers flowing into the Bo Sea is the first task listed in the Action for the Comprehensive Management of the Bo Sea.
- China has developed more comprehensive measures for water protection. Most policies mention or cover pollution prevention or preventive measures, pollution treatment, and environmental monitoring, usually in great detail. The Action Plan for the Prevention of Groundwater Pollution in the North China Plain, which was the first water policy of 2013, outlines its main objective as establishing a monitoring network for groundwater pollution in the North China Plain, but also dealing with pollution prevention and piloting rehabilitation. Treatment has become more prominent in recent policies, especially in terms of improving overall water quality; there is also more emphasis on monitoring.
- Water protection policies focus on pollution from both land and water sources. The Proposal for Pollution Prevention in Offshore Waters was the first water policy to make a clear distinction between handling land pollution sources and water (especially marine) pollution sources. The Action Plan for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Yangtze River calls for co-ordinated monitoring on pollution from both land and water sources, and treatment of pollution caused by industry, shipping, and agriculture.
- Approaches for water protection include economic restructuring, technological support, and market mechanisms. For technological support in particular, the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan encourages piloting and scaling up applicable technologies such as emissions-reducing and clean-manufacturing technologies; undertaking more research and development on cutting-edge technologies; and developing environmentally friendly industries.
Read other briefs in this Eco-City Tracker Series:
Air Quality: A Brief Summary of China’s Air Protection Policies
For more information, see a list of recent national-level policies on water pollution management:
- Action Plan for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Yangtze River, 长江保护修复攻坚战行动计划, http://www.mee.gov.cn/xxgk2018/xxgk/xxgk03/201901/t20190125_690887.html
- Action Plan for the Comprehensive Management of the Bo Sea, 渤海综合治理攻坚战行动计划, http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/gzdt/201812/t20181211_922529.html
- Administrative Regulation on the Prevention and Control of Vessel-Induced Pollution to the Marine Environment (Corrected in 2018), 防治船舶污染海洋环境管理条例（2018年修正）, http://www.waizi.org.cn/doc/33034.html
- Administrative Regulation on the Prevention and Treatment of the Pollution and Damage to the Marine Environment by Marine Engineering Construction Projects (Revised in 2018), 防治海洋工程建设项目污染损害海洋环境管理条例（2018年修订）, http://zfs.mee.gov.cn/fg/xzhg/201805/t20180516_440445.shtml
- Specialized Action Plan for the Environmental Protection of Centralized Drinking Water Sources, 全国集中式饮用水水源地环境保护专项行动方案, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bwj/201803/t20180330_433402.htm
- Specialized Action Plan for the Prevention of Ship Pollution in the Yangtze Economic Belt, 长江经济带船舶污染防治专项行动方案（2018—2020年）, http://xxgk.mot.gov.cn/jigou/haishi/201801/t20180115_2979997.html
- Law on Marine Environment Protection, 中华人民共和国海洋环境保护法 （2017年修订）, http://zfs.mee.gov.cn/fl/201805/t20180517_440477.shtml
- Special Plan on Projects for Water Pollution Prevention and Control in Major River Basins (2016-2020), 重点流域水污染防治规划（2016－2020年）, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bwj/201710/t20171027_424176.htm
- Law on Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, 中华人民共和国水污染防治法 (2017年修正), http://www.mee.gov.cn/gzfw_13107/zcfg/fl/201803/t20180309_432235.shtml
- Development Plan for Demonstration Project on the Comprehensive Management of Agricultural Non-point Source Pollution in Major River Basins (2016-2020), 重点流域农业面源污染综合治理示范工程建设规划（2016—2020年）, http://www.moa.gov.cn/nybgb/2017/dsiqi/201712/t20171230_6133444.htm
- Proposal for Pollution Prevention in Offshore Waters, 近岸海域污染防治方案, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bgth/201704/t20170419_411769.htm
- Regulations on Control Over the Dumping of Wastes in the Ocean (revised in 2017), 中华人民共和国海洋倾废管理条例（2017年修订）, http://www.gov.cn/gongbao/content/2017/content_5219141.htm
- 13th Five-Year Plan for the Construction of Urban Wastewater Treatment and Recycling Facilities, “十三五”全国城镇污水处理及再生利用设施建设规划, http://hzs.ndrc.gov.cn/newhjbh/201701/W020170123352661637115.pdf
- National Water Conservation Action Plan, 全民节水行动计划, http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/zcfb/zcfbtz/201610/t20161031_825148.html
- Water Law (Revised in 2016), 中华人民共和国水法（2016年修订）, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gzfw_13107/zcfg/fl/201610/t20161008_365107.shtml
- National Plan for Water and Soil Conservation (2015-2030), 全国水土保持规划 （2015-2030 年）, http://www.sx.gov.cn/attach/0/1805211522486886673.pdf
- Water Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan, 水污染防治行动计划, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2015-04/16/content_9613.htm
- General Plan for the Ecological and Environmental Protection of Fairly Unpolluted Lakes, 水质较好湖泊生态环境保护总体规划（2013-2020年）, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bwj/201409/t20140930_289795.htm
- Regulation on Urban Drainage and Sewage Treatment, 城镇排水与污水处理条例, http://fgs.mee.gov.cn/fg/xzfg/201811/t20181129_676340.shtml
- Action Plan for the Prevention of Groundwater Pollution in the North China Plain, 华北平原地下水污染防治工作方案, http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2013-04/26/content_2391185.htm)
Prepared by the Sustainable Asia Team at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada:
Senior Program Manager
Maya Xiaoting Liu
Post Graduate Research Scholar
Junior Research Scholar