Anhui, Zhejiang provinces have win-win arrangement in caring for Xin'an River
When the local government undertook a water quality project five years ago, Hu Chengjiu, a farmer in Huangshan, Anhui province, had no idea what a big difference it would make on his life.
Household rubbish is now strictly sorted, sanitary wastewater is properly processed and toxic pesticides have been replaced by low-toxicity ones to minimize environmental damage.
What looked at first like nothing but extra work has brought tangible benefits to the inhabitants of Banqiao township. The water in the nearby creek, which originates in mountain springs and fills Hu's fishpond, now meets drinking water standards.
Thanks to the springs' rich mineral elements, the fish living in it are thought to be more nutritious and sell for 10 times more than regular market price.
"The carp I raise taste finer and juicier," Hu said. "The answer lies in the water."
Hu is one of millions of people benefiting from a collaborative ecological preservation project between Anhui and Zhejiang provinces, through which the 373-kilometer Xin'an River passes.
According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, water in about one-third of China's big rivers failed to meet drinking standards, even after processing, in 2015 when China published its first Water Pollution Prevention and Treatment Action Plan. The aim is to make at least 75 percent of water in major rivers clean by 2030.
The two-province success on the Xin'an River has considerable reference value for other efforts on big rivers to control water pollution and provide treatment.
The stream near Hu's village is on a part of the Xin'an River that has more than 680 tributaries within a drainage area of more than 11,000 square kilometers before entering the East China Sea via Zhejiang province.
In the southern part of China's prosperous Yangtze River Delta, the area along the Xin'an River has long provided an abundance of fish and rice.
Agricultural development and convenient water transport has encouraged industrial and commercial growth, which has increased activity on the river.
In 1959, a hydroelectric power station was built downstream, forming Qiandao Lake, a 580-sq-km artificial lake with 1,078 islands covered with lush vegetation, 129 km west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang's capital.
"Although the water of Qiandao Lake is good, it has been declining since 2000," said Nie Weiping, the Xin'an River protection bureau chief in Huangshan. "If we do not control it, its future as an artificial lake could be in jeopardy."
In 2001, the Qiandao Lake Scenic Area was classified as a 5A tourist spot, the highest level, by the national tourism authority. It attracts more than 10 million visitors every year and is regarded as one of the most beautiful and cleanest lakes in China.
The Xin'an River originates from another 5A scenic spot-Yellow Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its natural beauty and as the cradle of the Hui culture.
With two areas of natural beauty on the river, the decision to strengthen cooperation on ecological preservation between Anhui and Zhejiang is understandable.
Zhejiang first proposed the idea in 2004. But it took seven years to translate words to deeds, and it wasn't until 2011 that the cross-provincial ecological preservation mechanism was enacted.
The four water quality indicators－permanganate index, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and ammonia nitrogenare monitored on an hourly basis throughout the year on a section of the river on the provincial border.