The latest report on environmental challenges in Shandong, Sichuan, Guangdong, Jilin and Hubei is out
An in-depth report on environmental challenges in Shandong, Sichuan, Guangdong, Jilin, and Hubei has just been released.
Photo by Uliana Sys on Unsplash
In this article, we will identify some of the common pain points that the “environmental inspectors” have encountered. It has been 4 years since the last report. This article aims to compare the two reports.
1.What environmental problems have been solved over the last 4 years (since the last report)?
More than 4 years ago, the water pollution of some tributaries of the Yangtze River in Sichuan Province had reached critical levels. About 30% of the monitored sections in the five major river basins, including the Sichuan section of the Yangtze River, did not meet the standards back in a day. However, this year’s report revealed that the water quality of the Sichuan section of the Yangtze River and the Yellow River reached an excellent level.
The pollution control of Guangdong’s Maozhou and Lianiang Rivers has also achieved remarkable results. In 2016, 124 rivers in the province were critically polluted. The latest report however shows a significant improvement that is a result of the new environmental infrastructure that includes a 26,200 km long urban sewage pipeline network, and 7,089 million tons of sewage treatment capacity.
The latest report furthermore declares that all the 68 urban wastewater treatment plants in Jilin province have the first-level A treatment capacity, with the Liaohe River Basin, Chagan Lake, and the Yitong River achieving the best results.
From 2015 to 2021, a series of pilot projects have been conducted to improve the air quality of some cities in Sichuan province. According to the 2017 report, these efforts were insufficient. In 2016 in Chengdu, only 60.5% of days were qualified as “good”. The latest report (2021) however stated that Chengdu's air quality has never been better in the last five years.
The 2017 report declared that the bad air quality of the Shangdong province is a result of the high number of coal-fired power stations. The latest report (2021) however reveals that efforts in the direction of reducing air pollution have been fruitful; the emissions of volatile organic compounds emitted by more than 3,800 manufacturers have been brought under control. Moreover, efforts have been made also on the water quality level. Since 2019, the coking capacity has been greatly reduced by 15.06 million tons.
2.Despite the significant improvement, what are some remaining environmental challenges in the five provinces where the study was conducted?
Despite remarkable achievements in the last 4 years, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Sichuan province has made great efforts in water environment management, and water quality has improved significantly, but there are still shortcomings in the protection of the Yangtze River. Some industrial parks along the river have launched chemical projects that violate the regulations. Moreover, there are still some obstacles in the prevention and control of air pollution. The concentration of fine particles in 7 cities in the province is still not up to standard, and the harmless disposal of sludge is still lagging.
Hubei has actively implemented the Yangtze River protection strategy by adopting a series of measures, but there is still a lot of development potential. There’s an urgent need for reclaiming the lakes due to effluent discharge from industries. The province is also facing the environmental risks posed by the solid waste landfills and frequent violation of regulations by shipbuilding companies. Moreover, there are frequent ecological problems in quarries and the problem of sewage that is being discharged into water bodies.
The air and water quality of Shandong province have been improved as a result of the reduced coking production capacity. Some of the remaining issues are air pollution from diesel trucks and the slow low-carbon transformation of the iron and steel industry. Some of the shortcomings in the environmental protection of the Yellow River are the environmental impacts from coal mining and a general lack of agricultural nonpoint source pollution awareness.
Guangdong Province has achieved considerable results in wastewater management, however, more effort still needs to be made in wastewater treatment infrastructure. Some river basins and urban inland rivers in the province had reached critical pollution levels, and there is also significant environmental impact from some industrial clusters. Furthermore, marine environmental protection is lagging, as well as the construction of the domestic waste treatment facilities in smaller urban areas. Many cities are also lacking leachate and solid waste disposal capacity.
Jilin Province has completely improved its sewage treatment capacity and efforts have been made for pollution control in the Liaohe River Basin. However, still, a lot needs to be done in the Songliao River Basin management. The construction and transformation of pipe networks have been critically lagging, the water quality in some areas has rebounded significantly, and the large-scale livestock and poultry breeding pollution prevention and control turned out to be ineffective. Moreover, the frequent occurrence of deforestation and grass destruction in Jilin needs to be addressed as well as the problem of hazardous waste disposal.
3. What are some of the common challenges encountered by the "environmental inspectors"?
The gap between the implementation of environmental regulations and the actual “green development” progress. The cases of “greenwashing” have been recorded in all five provinces.
Furthermore, in all five provinces, there is a problem of illegal construction in nature reserves. E.g., a lot of tourists and vehicles pass through the core area of the Dagushan Nature Reserve of the Yitong Volcano Group National Nature Reserve in Jilin; Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province has illegally developed and constructed in the Gongga Mountain National Scenic Area and occupied forest land and cultivated land; and Dongming Yellow River National Park, Heze, Shandong 51.93 hectares of wetland park conservation area has been occupied. Chipping Jinniu Lake National Wetland Park and East Aluoshen Lake National Wetland Park also have problems with illegal construction. There have also been illegal mining sites in Enping Geothermal National Geopark, Guangdong for a long time.
This series of problems shows that there are still loopholes in the environmental protection and safety in some parts of the five provinces in question. For the time being, it is necessary to identify the problem and implement a series of measures as soon as possible. E.g., problems related to wastewater management have been identified in all five provinces. The collection rate of domestic sewage in Sichuan is lower than the national average, the sewage pipe network in Hubei has many problems, such as wrong connection, missing connection, and mixed connection of the pipeline network. The improvement of sewage treatment quality and efficiency in Shandong has been slow, and some cities in Guangdong have large gaps in the pipeline network, and a large amount of sewage is directly discharged. Malfunctions in Jilin's sewage treatment capacity have also been identified.
In conclusion, the report mentions the persistent issues in the environmental protection of the Yangtze River in Sichuan and Hubei provinces. As important industrial hubs along the Yangtze River, both provinces have chemical manufacturers operating along the river and violating environmental regulations, which means that stricter measures need to be implemented, the "inspectors" have declared.