On March 12, the fourth “Ministerial Passage” of the 2019 National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was convened in the Great Hall of the People, and Mr. E Jingping, Minister of Water Resources, answered journalists’ questions at the “Ministerial Passage”.
At the beginning, Minister E Jingping gave answers to the general situation of flood control and drought relief in China this year. In his address, Minister E mentioned that“ Ministry of Water Resources made a forecast together with China Meteorological Administration a few days ago, and the conclusion is that the overall meteorological and hydrological situation this year is not favorable. The South will receive more rainfall than the North in summer and extreme weather events will be likely to increase, so floods and droughts will be more serious in 2019. Guided by President Xi Jinping’s instructions on disaster prevention, mitigation and relief, Ministry of Water Resources will highlight three aspects of work this year. First, strengthening flood forecasting and early warning, and making efforts to extend lead time and improve forecasting precision. Second, highlighting operation management and optimal regulation of water projects, using more than 98,000 reservoirs, 98 national flood detention areas and over 300,000 kilometers of levees to resist floods and alleviate disaster losses. Third, coordinating and cooperating with Ministry of Emergency Management and other ministries to make joint endeavors and pay close attention to safe operation and optimal regulation of reservoirs. For example, we should soundly manage and regulate the powerful reservoir group along the Yangtze River. At present, in the mainstream of Yangtze River, 40 large reservoirs are involved in the joint regulation in order to effectively eliminate flood threat and ensure the safety of people’s lives and properties”.
Next, Minister E Jingping answered the question on the problem of rural drinking water safety. He pointed out that“ Premier Li Keqiang put forward explicit requirements for rural drinking water safety. In this regard, Ministry of Water Resources is under some pressures as there are still many problems. After decades of efforts, China has established a relatively complete rural water supply system, which serves 940 million rural people with a tap water penetration rate of 81% and basically achieves full rural coverage. It is a remarkable achievement. However, along with economic and social development, new problems have emerged in recent years. For example, a sizable part of the rural water supply projects currently in operation were built more than 20 years ago at low technical standards and they are aging fast. The reliability rate of water supply has been declining. Another example, as economy and society rapidly develop, water consumption in all aspects is increasing. Therefore, the inflow of water sources in rural areas is declining, and the guarantee rate of water supply is also going down. At the same time, water pollution has become more and more severe in recent years. In addition, there are also social problems, e.g., a large number of migrant workers move to cities, resulting in the idling of some rural water supply facilities and equipments. As I mentioned, the capacity of the rural water supply system could serve 940 million people. However, there are only 600 million people living in the countryside. This leads to the inadequate collection of water fees, which affects the normal operation and maintenance of the system. Nevertheless, these under-used water supply capacity cannot be abandoned, because those migrant farmers still go back home during festivals such as the Spring Festival. There are quite a few similar problems and some of them are difficult to solve. In spite of these pressures, Ministry of Water Resources is strongly committed to its solution without any hesitation. President Xi Jinping mentioned that the people's yearning for a better life is our goal of endeavors, and the key measure of a well-off society is the farmers’ living standard. Rural drinking water safety is related to the farmers' desire for a better life. If farmers don’t have access to safe and clean water, a well-off society could not be realized. Therefore, in the future, Ministry of Water Resources will make unremitting efforts to solve these problems. We have four priorities this year. First, according to the plan of the State Council, with the financial support of the central and local governments as well as private investment, great efforts will be made to upgrade and renovate existing water supply facilities so as to improve the reliability rate of rural water supply projects and that of water supply in source areas. The central and local governments have invested 120 billion yuan over the past three years, and this year the central government will continue to invest more. Second, Ministry of Water Resources is working together with Ministry of Ecology and Environment to regulate and protect rural water sources. Third, the operation and management of the projects need to be strengthened, by the means of improving management organizations, standardizing management systems and ensuring operation funds. Fourth, we prepare to further reinforce the accountability system. According to the basic principle that provincial governments assume overall responsibility and municipality/county governments are in charge of implementation, we will further clarify and delegate the principal responsibility of local governments, supervision responsibility of water authorities, and management responsibility of operation and management units. In order to achieve this, Ministry of Water Resources will conduct large-scale unannounced visits to at least 3,000 villages this year. At the same time, the channel of public tip-offs will also be opened to press ahead strong supervision and accountability. To sum up, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, Ministry of Water Resources will spare no effort in completing the tasks set out in the work report of the government made by Premier Li Keqiang and celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of P.R. China with excellent achievements in water sector”.