Ships dock at a tourism port on the Yangtze River in Zigui, Hubei province, in April, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)
Law to restrict shoreline exploitation, toughen punishments for infractions
To enhance the conservation of the country's longest watercourse, China plans to restrict exploitation of shorelines and impose tougher punishment for a number of violations that cause environmental hazards in the Yangtze River Basin, according to a draft law.
With the help of a national coordination mechanism, central government bodies and provincial-level governments in the basin will map out protected shorelines and draft a plan on protecting shore areas of rivers and lakes, according to the draft law on protecting the Yangtze River that was submitted to the bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress, China's top legislature, for review for the third time on Tuesday.
In areas less than 1 kilometer from the Yangtze's trunk and its tributaries, for example, new chemical industrial parks and projects will be forbidden, and existing ones will not be allowed to expand, it said.
New tailing ponds will be prohibited in areas less than 3 km from the Yangtze's mainstream, it added.
The draft also said local governments in the Yangtze basin will work in synergy as they draft local laws, guidelines and plans, and roll out law enforcement measures to protect and remediate the Yangtze.
It also vows to severely punish violations related to transportation of hazardous goods and sand excavation in the basin.
Enterprises that transport highly toxic chemicals or chemicals forbidden from waterway transport via the Yangtze will have their illicit gains confiscated and be given fines of up to 500,000 yuan ($76,350).Company executives held accountable will face penalties of 50,000 yuan to 100,000 yuan, according to the draft law.
The penalties are more severe than those included in a guideline on transporting hazardous goods via ship, which was published by the Ministry of Transport in 2018.
In addition, the draft law says that, under grave circumstances, transport companies will have to suspend operations for rectification and their business licenses could be revoked.
Xu Hui, a senior official with the NPC's Constitution and Law Committee, said the new items were added to the draft law based on public opinions the legislature solicited after the previous two reviews and field investigations the committee conducted in various regions, including Hubei and Jiangxi provinces.
He said officials from government bodies including the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment participated in two conferences held by his committee to consider the draft.
"The draft law includes special institutional measures put forward based on ch