China will establish coordination mechanisms at both regional and national levels to facilitate concerted efforts to protect the country's longest waterway, according to the newly passed Yangtze River Protection Law, the nation's first such legislation.
Adopted on Saturday after a third review by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress－the country's top legislature－the law states that a national mechanism will guide and coordinate Yangtze conservation work in accordance with the principle of "promoting well-coordinated environmental conservation and avoiding excessive development".
Aside from deliberating on major protection policies and planning, the mechanism will also conduct coordination of major trans-regional and departmental issues, as well as supervise and inspect the implementation of major Yangtze conservation work, according to the law, which will take effect on March 1.
Governments of the 19 provincial-level regions in the river basin, including Jiangxi and Hubei provinces and Shanghai, will draft local laws, regulations and planning in a coordinated manner, it stipulated. These regions will also align with each other in rolling out supervision and law enforcement measures to create synergy to systematically protect and develop the entire Yangtze basin.
The main route of the Yangtze flows almost 6,400 kilometers. Its drainage basin covers a fifth of China's land area and about a third of its population.
Drafted in accordance with local characteristics of the basin and its outstanding issues, the law aims to "promote green transformation of economic and social development in all respects in the Yangtze basin and realize harmonious coexistence of people and nature", said Wang Ruihe, an official with the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission.
"Yangtze protection work is multifaceted and complicated," Wang said.
In addition to central and local governments, work needs to coordinate different reaches of the river, industries and laws, Wang added.
The new legislation also imposes various bans and restrictions on activities with environmental hazards and introduces heavier publishments for violations.
Fishing, for example, will be banned in all of the Yangtze's natural waterways, including its major tributaries and lakes. Breaches of the ban will subject to heavier punishments compared with the country's Fisheries Law.
It rules that those employing fishing practices such as electric shocks, poisons or explosives will be fined from 50,000 yuan ($7,645) to 500,000 yuan. Under the Fisheries Law, however, fines for such violations were a maximum of 50,000 yuan.
Sand mining will be severely restricted in the basin. The amount of sand that can be mined annually and the number of sand dredgers that are allowed to operate will be capped, it said.
The new law also says an accountability mechanism, as well as one for performance appraisals, will be established for Yangtze conservation, and leading officials of local governments and departments with poor performance in protection work will be summoned before authorities.
Officials who neglect their duties or abuse their power will be given sanctions such as warnings and demerits. If violations are serious, they may be demoted or dismissed from their posts, the law rules.