Zhejiang generates around six percent of China’s Gross Domestic Product and ranks fourth among provinces for economic development. This industrial development has also brought with it massive environmental problems.
Sewage ran freely into the water ways, rubbish piled up and soon the rivers were heavily polluted. So much so that children who had played in the water sometimes developed skin diseases.
To bring Zhejiang Province back from the brink of disaster, Zhejiang’s Green Rural Revival Programme was launched. The programme aimed to incorporate water management, waste management and recycling to transform the province. Illegal workshops were shut down and rubbish classification systems were introduced.
Vital to the programme are the river chiefs - 61,000 river chiefs were appointed to manage all water bodies. The river chiefs make sure no refuse is dumped in the river and whenever they find refuse in the water they clean it up. The scheme faced many challenges initially, the local villagers needed re-educating about recycling in order for the programme to make progress.
Today, 97 percent of villages in Zhejiang have transformed their polluted waterways into clean, drinkable rivers, benefitting 30 million residents. Waterways are now clear of refuse and maintained to provide natural beauty to the surrounding area.
New domestic waste processing systems have been installed in all villages throughout the province. Effective recycling and treating toilet sewage, kitchen sewage and washing waste water are also underway. Eighty percent of historic buildings have been restored, with water, sanitation and electrical infrastructure overhauled to become more efficient.
Ronggui Chen is the Party Branch Secretary of Jianguang Village, Dafan Country, Pujiang County and Zhejiang Province. He says of the award: “This is the highest honour from the United Nations. It encourages China and Zhejiang to keep moving forward. It didn’t come easy and it proved our leading role in Zhejiang Province.”
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