Chinese lawmakers Monday started deliberating a draft law on Yangtze River conservation aimed at protecting the ecological environment of the Yangtze River basin and facilitating green development.
The draft was submitted for the first reading at the ongoing bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
Consisting of nine chapters with 84 provisions, the draft is China's first legislation on a specific river basin.
The draft is expected to address prominent problems damaging the ecological system of the Yangtze River basin, prevent and rectify various disruptive behaviors and boost the high-quality development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, said Gao Hucheng, chairman of the NPC Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, while briefing lawmakers on the draft Monday.
Boasting rich biodiversity and mineral and water resources in its basin and stretching over 6,300 km, the Yangtze River is seen as the "mother river" of the Chinese nation.
But the "mother river" has "fallen ill," said Gao at Monday's plenary meeting of the session.
Drought conditions are now frequently seen at some of the lakes of the basin. Some of the regions along the river are rife with desertified lands and soil pollution. And more polluting industries are moving upstream.
A binding mechanism for the protection of the Yangtze's ecological environment is lacking and legal protection is lagging behind, said Gao.
The grim situation has aroused growing public concern. In the first and second annual sessions of the 13th NPC, a total of 214 lawmakers have submitted motions concerning legislation on the protection of the Yangtze River basin.
"Formulating a Yangtze River protection law and better protecting our 'mother river' is our historical responsibility and will make a difference for future generations and the future of the Chinese nation," said Gao, citing remarks by Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee.
A coordination mechanism will be set up by the State Council to make overall plans for, coordinate, guide and supervise Yangtze River protection work, which will involve both State Council departments and provincial-level governments along the river, according to the draft.
The State Council will report to the NPC Standing Committee every five years on the development of the ecological situation of the basin and ecological restoration and protection work, said the draft.
The draft stipulated responsibilities and penalties in an entire chapter to give it teeth.
Both fines and criminal penalties are proposed for violators in the chapter.
The draft also makes specific stipulations to ban illegal sand mining in the basin.
Those whose sand mining activities seriously damage the ecological environment and constitute crimes will face criminal penalties, it said.