China has appointed about 200,000 "river chiefs" at provincial, city, county and township levels to fight pollution, an official said Wednesday.
The country aims to roll out the river chief mechanism nationwide by the end of 2018, according to a document released in December 2016 by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.
China is making faster-than-expected progress and "is likely to meet the target ahead of schedule," Zu Leiming, head of the construction and management department of the Ministry of Water Resources, said at a press conference.
By July 20, 31 provincial-level regions had filed plans for implementing the policy and appointed general river chiefs at the provincial level, Zu said.
Some 16 of these regions aim to appoint river chiefs down to the township level, while the other 15 plan to set up the mechanism to the village level, he said.
"Now, the mechanism has begun to show effects," Zu said
In regions where river chiefs have started patrols, the appearance of rivers has "seen apparent improvement," including better water quality and more effective protection of watercourses, he added.
Responsibilities of the river chiefs include water resource protection, pollution control and ecological restoration. They will be held accountable if environmental damage occurs in the water bodies they take charge of, according to the document.
East China's Jiangsu Province was the first to appoint local government officials as river chiefs in 2008 after a blue algae outbreak plagued Taihu Lake in 2007.