Major Goals for Eco-Conservation and Quality Development of the Yellow River Basin

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China III Updated: 2021-12-31

Major Goals for Eco-Conservation and Quality Development of the Yellow River Basin* 

September 18, 2019 

I have pointed out that to harness the Yellow River, priority should be given to eco-environmental conservation and the key lies in eco-environmental governance. We need to protect mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, lakes, and grasslands, and address all degradation at source in a coordinated way. We should strengthen coordination and cooperation in our work to promote high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin. Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets. We must act on this understanding, advance eco-environmental conservation as a priority, and pursue green development. We should use the water resources of the Yellow River as its capacity permits, and adopt differentiated measures appropriate to local conditions. We need to make comprehensive plans and joint efforts to protect the ecosystem along the upper and lower reaches, the trunk stream and tributaries, and along both banks of the Yellow River. We should better protect and restore its ecosystem, keep the Yellow River harnessed, promote high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin, improve local people's lives, and preserve and keep alive the Yellow River culture. By making these efforts, we can make the Yellow River deliver more benefits to our people.

To be specific, we need to do the following: 

First, strengthen eco-environmental protection. We should take into account the different conditions on the upper, middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River and protect its ecosystem as a whole. In the upper reaches, we need to launch a number of key programs for protecting, restoring and developing the local ecosystem and improving water conservation, particularly in the Sanjiangyuan Natural Reserve in Qinghai, the Qilian Mountains area bordering Qinghai and Gansu, and the Gannan water conservation area in Gansu. In the middle reaches, we need to focus on soil and water conservation and pollution control. Conserving soil and water does not just mean digging pits and planting trees. As the Loess Plateau has less rainfall, before taking action, we should find out whether the land is suitable for tree-planting and what varieties are appropriate. Where conditions permit, more rainfed terraces and silt trap dams should be built. In some places, we need to improve natural eco-restoration, reduce human interference, and thus improve the climatic conditions there. We must step up efforts to clean up severely polluted tributaries such as the Fenhe River. In the lower reaches, the Yellow River Delta is the most intact wetland ecosystem in China's warm temperate zone. We must keep it well protected, maintain a sound river ecosystem, and increase biodiversity.

Second, keep the Yellow River harnessed. The river contains too much sediment. The imbalance in its sediment-water ratio is the root cause of complicated problems causing natural disasters along the river. Although the Yellow River has not caused many problems in recent years, we must not slacken our efforts, and we should do more to remove potential hazards. When the Yellow River is harnessed, China is serene. With this in mind, we must make every effort to adjust the sediment-water ratio of the Yellow River. We need to improve sediment monitoring and resolve the problem whereby too many government departments are involved in water management. We need to adopt a holistic approach to cleaning up the watercourses and mudflats, mitigate sedimentation in the lower reaches, and ensure safety along both banks of the Yellow River.

Third, promote efficient and economical utilization of water resources. The Yellow River's water supply is limited. Eco-conservation programs need water; economic development needs water; and people need water in their everyday lives. We must be keenly aware that water is not a limitless natural resource, and we should utilize the Yellow River as its capacity permits. We must make plans for population distribution as well as urban and industrial development in accordance with the water resources available. We must discourage unnecessary water demands, develop water-saving industries and technologies, promote water saving in agriculture, and encourage the public to save water, so as to stop wasteful water consumption and ensure efficient and economical water consumption.

Fourth, promote high-quality development of the Yellow River Basin. At the fifth meeting of the Central Commission for Finance and Economy on August 26, I emphasized the need to encourage different regions to leverage their comparative strengths and enhance the dynamics for quality development. The local governments along the Yellow River should act in keeping with local conditions, use the water and mountain resources, grow crops, and develop agriculture, industry or business as conditions permit, so as to blaze a new trail of high-quality development with distinctive local features. However, in Sanjiangyuan, the Qilian Mountains and other important eco-functional areas, priority should be placed not on industry and business, but on protection of the local ecosystem, conservation of water resources, and development of more eco-products. In the Hetao Irrigation Area in Inner Mongolia, Fenhe-Weihe River Plain and other major grain production areas, more should be done to develop modern agriculture and improve the quality of farm products, thereby contributing to national food security. Regional hub cities and other localities with better economic conditions should pursue efficient development and improve their economic and population carrying capacity. Poor areas should improve infrastructure and public services and ensure people's wellbeing. The Yellow River Basin should take an active part in the Belt and Road Initiative and pursue high-standard opening up to promote reform and development.

Fifth, preserve, promote, and keep alive the Yellow River culture. The Yellow River culture, which is an important part of Chinese civilization, is the origin and soul of the Chinese nation. We should preserve in a systematic way the Yellow River cultural heritage, an invaluable legacy from our ancestors. We need to explore the worth of the Yellow River culture in our era, promote the Yellow River culture, pass down our cultural traditions, and build stronger cultural confidence to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation.

* Part of the speech at the Forum on the Eco-conservation and Quality Development of the Yellow River Basin.

(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)

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