Water Spouts will speak volubly and endlessly about all the issues concerning water. The ongoing degradation, and growing scarcity, of the water supply here in the US, and the rest of the world. The continued absence of potable water in so many parts of the world. The work being done by NGOs, and charities, in the third world, to help alleviate the situation. The emphasis on WASH ( Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene ) so health and healthy water are maintained. "Water Spouts" will spout it all out.
Can a province once beloved for 1,000 lakes save the few that remain with new regulations?
The last lakes in Hubei Province are shrinking so fast that no one
knows whether new government regulations – the latest leg of a
16-year-old environmental scramble – can reverse the disappearing act.
The province has been losing its once-bountiful lakes for about 100
years, but the destructive pace accelerated in modern times with
extension draining projects for farmland and the expansion of
water-dependent heavy industry.
Today, the total surface area of all provincial lakes is just 3,025
square kilometers, according to official statistics, compared to some
26,000 square kilometers of water in the early 1900s, when Hubei was
called The Province of 1,000 Lakes.
Farm runoff and mine wastes have contaminated many of the surviving
lakes in a wide region that includes either side of the Yangtze River
valley below the
Three Gorges Dam.
Water was deemed fit for human consumption in only one of 26 lakes
recently surveyed by the Hubei Province Water Environment Monitoring
In hopes of counteracting the destruction, the provincial branch of
the National People's Congress recently passed its most far-reaching
water protection measure ever – the Hubei Province Lake Protection
Ordinance – and said it would take effect in October.
The regulation includes an accountability system that directly ties
water quality assessments to job performance evaluations for local
government leaders. It also clarifies the functions of government
agencies whose responsibilities involve various aspects of lake
The provincial environmental protection department, for example, will
be in charge of drawing up specific plans for enforcing water pollution
laws. The Hubei government's fisheries experts have been told to better
track fish stocks and identify vulnerable species, while the forestry
department has been put in charge of oversee wetlands protection.
"Hubei was once a province with plentiful water resources," said Wang
Shuyi, dean of the Wuhan University Institute of Environmental Law. "It
used to rank No. 1 nationally among fish-producing provinces in total
aquaculture production. But this advantage has been lost."
The lakes and its fisheries lost out, Wang said, during a push for economic growth.
In Hubei "the biggest conflict has been between economic development
and environmental protection," Wang said. "This is why it's taken 16
years to have meaningful legislation."
Indeed, as early as 1996 Hubei officials were aware of and tried to
address the shrinking lakes issue and water pollution by adopting
China's first water-usage regulations. They were based on research
conducted by the Hubei Department of Water Resources which found lake
management seriously lacking.
Subsequently, in 1998, the provincial government poured 2 billion
yuan into various efforts to save lakes and rivers. But the investment
never translated into measurable improvements, according to the water
research center's recent report, due to weak water-usage planning and
In addition to spelling out government agency responsibilities, the
new regulation includes specific guidelines for public participation in
the lake protection process. Public comments will be sought for
water-related policies before the proposals are discussed by
Stiffer penalties for draining lakes are in store as well. The
highest fine for emptying a lake in Hubei is set to be 500,000 yuan.
Despite these moves, Wang doubts the health of provincial lakes will
improve anytime soon. One reason for pessimism, he says, is Hubei's
legacy of environmental rule-bending and breaking.
"Legislation is only the first step toward solving the problem," he said. "Enforcement is the key."
The provincial capital Wuhan has invested more than 20 billion yuan
in lake-protection and water treatment initiatives. And the city
government has directed more than 20 policies and regulations to address
water quality. Nevertheless, Wuhan's nearby lakes are still slowly
Wuhan's government has never enforced its water regulations at the
expense of local business, said Lu Xinhai, a professor at the Huazhong
University of Science and Technology Institute of Public Administration.
Other experts say the success of the new policy will hinge on public
participation. Masahisa Nakamura, chairman of the International Lake
Environment Committee, said it's been proven around the world over time
that environmental law flourishes when public participation reinforces
Will officials in Wuhan and other parts of Hubei mend their ways and
support the new environmental regulations before the province's lakes
vanish completely? Nakamura is among those who harbor no illusions.
"Overall, I'm not optimistic about restoring China's seriously polluted lakes," he said.