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River chief breathes new life into China's 'mother river'

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-04-02 06:59

YINCHUAN -- Over the past six years, Gui Tao, 42, has walked along a 1.34-km-long section of the Yellow River countless times. The 10-minute walk often takes him almost an hour, as he constantly stops to pick up garbage and checks for floating debris.

Gui is the Party secretary of Chentan Village in the city of Qingtongxia, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. In 2017, he was appointed as the river chief, responsible for protecting the water environment of a section along the Yellow River near his village.

Born and bred near the Yellow River, also known as China's "mother river," Gui knows better than anyone its importance to villagers and his responsibility to protect it. "When I was a child, I often played at the riverside. The farmland could reap a harvest every year only with the river water's nourishment," he said.

He conducts 16 patrols along the section every month and addresses issues such as the illegal dumping of construction waste and littering.

Whenever Gui detects a problem along the watercourse, he takes a photo on the spot and uploads the information through an app developed by Ningxia's water conservancy department.

After investigations by relevant government departments, he will receive feedback on the app to help him solve the problem.

High-tech devices also prove handy for monitoring the river. Gui has incorporated his hobby of flying camera drones into his daily work. "The drone can take photos and videos from a broader perspective and help me inspect the river surface more clearly," he said.

The river section now has five village cadres, 14 community workers, and five cleaners as guardians of the "mother river."

"Although there's no industrial pollution, the river used to be turbid, floating with garbage. Now, it has turned cleaner with more rare birds spotted along the riverside," Gui said.

Gui is among the 4,330 river chiefs in Ningxia jointly safeguarding the ecological environment of the rivers across the region.

Nowadays, people's awareness of protecting the ecological environment of the Yellow River has enhanced, as many now realize that the river is the source of their drinking water and therefore has to be cherished.

"Our job has become easier as garbage is now barely seen alongside the riverbank," said Ma Xiuli, 66, who works as a cleaner along the waterway.

Thanks to years of unwavering efforts, the water quality at the Ningxia section of the Yellow River has remained at Class II in recent years, and the proportion of surface water of Class III or above has reached 90 percent, according to Ningxia's water conservancy department.

Surface water quality in China is divided into five classes, with Class I being the highest quality.

"It's my honor to be a river chief in the village. I will do my utmost to protect our 'mother river' and ensure our future generations can have clean water to drink," Gui said.

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