This photo taken with a mobile phone shows Zhang Gongliang collecting garbage on the Xin'an River in Shexian County, east China's Anhui Province, May 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Liu Fangqiang)
HEFEI, June 2 (Xinhua) -- Environmental monitors from east China's Anhui and Zhejiang provinces met again a week ago at the provincial border to jointly test the water quality of the Xin'an River, which flows from Anhui to Zhejiang.
"We meet twice a month for the test," said Hong Qingping, an environmental monitor from Anhui's Shexian County, where the river flows through. "We collaboratively collect water samples from three different spots before conducting separate laboratory tests."
The test is part of an innovative cross-provincial pilot scheme for ecological compensation introduced in 2012 to address a long-standing concern for residents along the Xin'an River: The water quality control of a river is futile when its headwater is polluted.
Under the scheme, the water quality is periodically assessed at the provincial border. If it meets the agreed standards, Zhejiang should compensate Anhui for the ecological protection cost. Otherwise, Anhui should compensate Zhejiang for additional water treatment costs.
With its trunk stream stretching nearly 360 km, Xin'an serves as a crucial ecological protective screen and water resource for the Yangtze River Delta, an area covering Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui.
The eco-compensation fund is allocated annually, and over the past decade, water quality has remained above the agreed requirements.
As a result, a total of 6.27 billion yuan (about 880 million U.S. dollars) has been compensated to Anhui for its environmental protection efforts, such as building sewage treatment plants, banning industrial production near the river, and organizing patrol teams to collect garbage.
Zhang Gongliang, now 61, became a member of the garbage cleaning team in Shexian in 2017 after selling his cargo boat and giving up his job in river transport.
Zhang recalled that during the flood season years ago, he could collect 2 tonnes of garbage daily, containing much household waste swept to the river by rainfalls. "Now, I collect only around 100 kg of garbage daily. It is mostly deadwood and leaves."
After running for over a decade, the ecological compensation scheme for the Xin'an River has served as a prime illustration of how inter-provincial cooperation plays a key role in preserving the regional environment. Many other programs followed suit in the Yangtze River Delta region.
For instance, Xuancheng City of Anhui conducted more than 60 joint patrols with neighboring cities in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang over the past three years and cracked down on 25 illegal workshops. Partnering with cities in Zhejiang, Xuancheng has also effectively handled 45 cases of illegal transfer and dumping of solid waste since 2019.
Positive progress is evident in regional ecological and environmental conditions due to concerted efforts.
The average proportion of good air quality days in all 41 cities in the Yangtze River Delta reached 83 percent in 2022, 7.3 percent higher than in 2018. The PM2.5 density, a key indicator of air pollution, dropped 26.2 percent to 31 micrograms per cubic meter during the same period. ■