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    The Villagers Turned ‘River Chiefs’ Helping to Protect China’s Waterways

    As a volunteer and resident of Mianbei Village in eastern Shanghai, 68-year-old retired worker Zhu Minghua dedicates two days each week to patrolling the area’s river channels.

    Zhu is a part of China’s “river chief” system, first established in the early 2000s as a framework specifically to tackle water pollution in two rivers in Changxing County in the neighboring Zhejiang province. At the time, efforts included dredging and purifying the waterways and removing illegal structures along the riverbanks.

    The system then garnered widespread attention in May 2007 following a significant pollution-related blue-green algae bloom in the eastern Jiangsu province’s Taihu Lake, outside of Wuxi. In response, the Wuxi municipal government explicitly tied river management to the performance evaluations of local government officials.

    Environmental conditions in the Taihu Lake region gradually improved thanks to Jiangsu province’s successful implementation of the river chief system. In 2016, the government launched a nationwide initiative to fully extend the system across China by 2018.

    By 2019, Shanghai had achieved complete coverage of its 26,600 river channels and 692 lakes via close to 10,000 workers employed under the river chief system. The system also encompasses nearly 3,500 civilian river chiefs and river monitors, like Zhu, who dedicate their time to protecting their local environment.

    May 17, 2024#environment