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Building an Ecological Barrier to Protect the Sea——Interpretation of the Law Enforcement Inspection Report on the MEPL and the ZMEPR

As a major marine province, what achievements has our province made in protecting the marine environment, and what problems still exist? On May 29, the second plenary session of the 12th meeting of the 13th Provincial People's Congress Standing Committee heard the provincial government's report on implementation of the Marine Environmental Protection Law (MEPL) and Zhejiang Marine Environmental Protection Regulations (ZMEPR), and the report of the Law Enforcement Inspection Group (LEIG) of the Standing Committee of the Provincial People's Congress on the law enforcement inspection of the MEPL and ZMEPR.

The law enforcement inspection report shows that all local governments and departments in our province have earnestly implemented the law and the regulations. The water quality of the coastal waters has gradually improved, but there are still problems such as inadequate supervision of pollution sources in the sea and insufficient protection and restoration of marine resources, which shows that we still have a long way to go in the marine ecological protection.

The water quality of the coastal waters gradually improved

From March to April this year, the relevant leader of the Standing Committee of the Provincial People's Congress led the team to 18 counties (cities, districts) in 7 cities including Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wenzhou, Jiaxing, Shaoxing, Zhoushan and Taizhou to have an inspection on the enforcement of the MEPL and ZMEPR. They inspected more than 50 units and projects including enterprises which discharge sewage into the sea, port terminals, the estuaries (brook gates), and reclamation projects.

"From the perspective of law enforcement, the various local governments and departments have continuously increased their efforts in the enforcement of the MEPL and the ZMEPR, and achieved positive results," said an official from the Environmental Resources Committee of the Provincial People's Congress.

The data show that in 2018, the Class I and Class II seawater area in the coastal waters of the province accounted for 39.6%, an increase of 7.5% over the previous year, which is of the best water quality since we carried out routine testing. The environmental quality of the marine functional areas is generally better. The environmental quality of seawater aquaculture areas basically meets the functional needs. The offshore fishery resources are recovering, and the number and area of red tides are significantly reduced.

This is closely related to the continuous improvement of comprehensive water quality management in coastal waters. In 2018, the province cleaned up or rectified the illegal and unreasonable sewage outlets. The number of sewage outlets in the sea was reduced from 462 to 122, and all online monitoring facilities were installed. The water quality of 7 major rivers entering the sea such as the Qiantang River has reached the national assessment requirements. The water quality of Cao'e River has been upgraded to Class II, and the quality of Jiaxing water environment has improved significantly. Governance on near-shore and offshore development is getting stricter and stricter. About 32% of the province's jurisdictional waters and 35% of the mainland's natural shorelines are included in the marine eco-friendly red line.

"It is worth mentioning that the key problems found in the inspection of the National People's Congress on the enforcement of the MEPL have been actively rectified," said an official from the LEIG, “such as the rectification project of the sewage outlets of the Xiaocao’e Sewage Treatment Plant in Yuyao, and the clean-up of the illegal cultivation of the wetland on the west side of the Chenjialu Reservoir in Cixi. By the end of April, 42 out of the 86 problems reported by the National Ocean Inspectors have been rectified.”

Four shortcomings need to be improved

According to the report on the law enforcement inspection, in 2018, the Class IV water and below in coastal waters in our province accounted for 42.8% of the sea area. An official from the LEIG said that at present, in terms of marine environmental protection, there exist four defects: inadequacy of supervision on pollution sources in the sea, ineffectiveness of land and sea coordinated pollution control, relative weakness in prevention and control of marine pollution, and inadequate efforts in protection of marine resources.

For example, there are a total of 122 registered sewage outlets in the province supervised by the ecological and environmental departments, mainly in sewage treatment plants and enterprises. However, the inspection group found that there are still many outlets containing pollution sources, such as the flood discharge outlets, rainwater outlets and aquaculture tail water outlets, which are under inadequate supervision."Getting the source of pollution is the first step in marine environmental protection. Supervision must also be strengthened in this regard," said an official from the LEIG.

LEIG also found that the outlets for some sewage treatment facilities are not up to the standards. For example, in the eastern sewage treatment plant of a city in southern Zhejiang, the inspectors found that the wastewater contaminated with nickel were not pretreated, resulting in nickel pollution in the discharged water, and the problem still existed sometimes after remediation. A joint sewage treatment plant in a certain city also had a similar problem: the daily discharge of seawater is 600,000 tons, but the water quality is unstable, and sometimes exceeds the standard.

Take measures to improve the mechanism

According to an official from the Environmental Resources Committee of the Provincial People's Congress, there are objective reasons for the marine environmental protection problems. For example, the integration of departmental functions is not yet in place and the working mechanism needs to be improved. The laws and regulations on marine ecological environmental protection were issued earlier, which could no longer adapt to the actual needs of current management; the support to scientific and technological researches is relatively insufficient, which makes our province lag behind in the investigation on influx pollution and research on land and sea coordinated prevention of pollution.

There are also subjective reasons. "One of the main reasons for the above problems is the less attention paid to sea pollution," said the official to the reporter. Some local governments and departments attach great importance to work related with the "land water conservation program", but less importance to the prevention and control of sea pollutions. "Ideology is the root of actions. Without paying attention to it ideologically, it is impossible to do well in marine protection."

To this end, the Standing Committee of the Provincial People's Congress recommended that we establish a working mechanism for marine ecological environmental protection, and put forward phased objectives and tasks as an important part of the “14th five-year plan” of the province; that we strictly implement the responsibility system for marine environmental governance, include the water quality assessment of coastal waters in the comprehensive assessment system for leading teams and leading cadres, and establish the lifelong investigation system for the leader’s responsibility for marine ecological environment damage.

We will focus on the establishment of the responsibility system, policy system and regional linkage system for marine ecological environmental protection, and lay a solid foundation for the prevention and control of pollution in coastal waters, said an official from the provincial government. We will further strengthen marine ecological protection and restoration, and continue to maintain the high pressure of supervision to protect the safety of the marine ecological environment.

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