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BEIJING - "Lake chiefs" will be appointed in China to continue tackling water pollution, drawing on the successful experience of "river chiefs" introduced last year.
The first meeting of the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th CPC Central Committee, held on Monday, approved the measure and other practical measures to deepen reform.
Lake chiefs have similar responsibilities to river chiefs, who are tasked with resource protection, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration.
Likewise, their performance will be assessed and they will be held accountable for environmental damage in bodies of water under their supervision.
The introduction of "lake chiefs" aims to address waters not covered by the "river chiefs." Early this year, central China"s Hubei Province and east China"s Zhejiang Province rolled out pilot programs.
Observers said the measure underscores the top leadership"s determination to clean up the environment after decades of breakneck growth left much of China"s waters seriously contaminated by factory waste and agricultural fertilizer.
China has appointed about 200,000 "river chiefs" at provincial, city, county and township levels to combat pollution, Zu Leiming, head of the construction and management department of the Ministry of Water Resources, said at a press conference in August.
The effect is becoming clear. Zhejiang Province has basically eliminated black and odorous waters and it has vowed to deal with any water "below Grade V," the lowest level of China"s water quality grading system.
According to the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), some 73.4 percent of inland waters met national standards in 2016, up from 70.8 percent in 2015 and 67.5 percent in 2014, fulfilling the yearly target.
But the ministry said the task is still challenging in some regions.
Complaints still arise from worsening water quality in some areas, destruction of aquatic ecosystems, and substandard drinking water.
More than 70 percent of the water in seven major river valleys, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, should reach Grade III or higher by 2020, according to a 2015 action plan.
At the meeting, a guideline on the selection and management of officials working in poverty-stricken regions was passed to help select officials able to promote poverty relief, deal with slack management and tackle undesirable work practices.
This is an important move in the implementation of targeted poverty relief measures, following the Party"s pledge to overcome poverty at its 19th national congress.
Poverty relief is always high on China"s agenda. The country has vowed to eliminate poverty by 2020. Since the start of the reform and opening up, China has lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty.
More than 60 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the past five years in China, with the poverty rate dropping from 10.2 percent to less than 4 percent.
"Selecting capable and suitable officials to guide poverty relief at different levels is necessary to effectively deepen poverty relief and realize common prosperity," said Prof. Zuo Ting with China Agricultural University.
Strict evaluations and inspections must carried out to ensure poverty alleviation goals are achieved, Zuo added, noting the importance of building people"s confidence in their ability to lift themselves out of poverty.
As China heads towards a poverty-free future, its targeted poverty relief measures offer answers to world development problems, said Du Xiaoshan, researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"China"s poverty-relief campaign benefits not only its own citizens, but also people of other developing countries," said Du.