“You come from the snow-capped mountains, the spring tide reveals your style; You rush to the East Sea, the torrents show your spirit …” In China, the Song of the Yangtze River, which depicts the majestic grace of the longest river in China, is known to all. The Yangtze river is a mother river of China. Rushing from Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and pouring into East China sea, it has nourished the underpinnings of Chinese civilisation.
However, due to over-exploitation in the process of rapid economic growth, our mother river became seriously ill. The river is silted up and its water polluted with garbage.
President Xi Jinping highly values protection and management of Yangtze river and China’s other mother rivers. In 2016, he chaired a meeting in Chongqing city for development of Yangtze River Economic Belt and highlighted the importance of “treating the illness of Yangtze river”. In 2018, he visited cities along Yangtze and presided over a symposium in Wuhan, a major city on the Yangtze river, deliberating on advancing the Yangtze River Economic Belt.
President Xi pointed out that to cure the “illness of Yangtze river”, we should follow the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine, find the root causes and treat them systematically. The key is to restore balance between promotion of grand strategies and major breakthroughs, coordinate ecological protection and resource development, and synergise overall planning and long-term efforts.
After years of effort, China has developed a set of effective measures for mother rivers’ governance. First, update mindset. All stakeholders shall jointly protect the mother river basin rather than conduct excessive development. We should recognise that “lucid waters and lush mountains” are actually “mountains of gold and silver”. A holistic approach towards ecological environmental protection and economic growth shall be adopted.
Second, optimise top-level design. Incorporate the development of Yangtze River Economic Belt into the overall national strategy and align it with the overall development of China. Third, establish an innovative mechanism to harmonise the guiding role of the central government, overall responsibility of provincial governments and implementation responsibilities of municipal and county governments. Fourth, apply a unified blueprint and focus on implementation. The source for river pollution lies in the bank and its root cause is industrialisation. We should strictly enforce environmental protection laws.
A chemical company located close to Yangtze had been seriously polluting the river for years, owing to low cost for violating environmental laws. Following the new policy, local environmental protection agency fined the company nearly $3.9 million, the largest ever in the Yangtze river basin. The company reflected on it and invested $14 million in sophisticated pollution control equipment and upgraded its production line. It didn’t just resolve the pollution issue but also upgraded its business with better economic benefits, a win-win scenario.
With personal input and leadership of President Xi, the ecological environment along the Yangtze river basin is improving remarkably. The area is seeing industries upgrading and waters turning cleaner.
Recently I visited Ahmedabad and made a special tour of the Sabarmati river clean-up campaign. I saw the river with clean water and green trees and people enjoying the benefits. The riverbank where President Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a walk together in 2014 has become a beautiful leisure resort. This shows that the Indian government also takes management of mother rivers like the Ganges seriously, and remarkable progress has been made in India’s river management.
Not long ago, the leaders of China and India held their second informal meeting in Chennai, providing strategic guidance for bilateral relations. The leaders stressed that China and India should learn from each other, “brighten up each other” and realise the great rejuvenation of the two great civilisations. This points to the direction of our future cooperation. Mother rivers are the cradle and important symbols of our respective civilisations.
As large developing countries with huge populations and heavy development tasks, it is the common responsibility of China and India to protect their mother rivers. While implementing our leaders’ consensus, we shall actively explore and conduct exchanges of experiences and cooperation in the governance of the country and actively promote cooperation in people-to-people and cultural, science and technology, environmental protection, etc and explore new frontiers of civilisational exchanges and cooperation, so that the two major oriental civilisations will assume new vigour and vitality.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.