ZHENGZHOU, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- A mayor of a city in central China's Henan Province jumped into a previously tainted river to test the anti-pollution efforts of local authorities.
Li Zhonghua, mayor of Yongcheng City, jumped into the Huchenghe River in the city's Xicheng District on Tuesday morning. Officials with the municipal government general office, environmental protection office and construction bureau all followed suit.
Many residents watching the officials clapped, while some shouted, "You kept your promise, Mr. Mayor!"
The river was created more than 1,300 years ago for city defense and runs more than 3,800 meters. In recent years, with increasing garbage and heavy pollution, the river was silted up and the water flowed slowly, fueling a spasm of public complaints.
Last year, when Li saw the pollution, he demanded immediate efforts to clean up the river within a year.
"I will come back next year and test the anti-pollution efforts with my own body by swimming in it," he was quoted as saying.
An anti-pollution headquarters was set up afterwards, which took a variety of measures, such as rain and sewage diversion, planting trees, strengthening the mud river bed with rocks and concrete planks, and raising fish. Over the past year, more than 280 toilets and illegal buildings along the banks were demolished, and more than 11,000 square meters of sludge was cleared.
A water diversion project was also launched, with water from another, cleaner river flowing into the Huchenghe River.
The latest data from the local environmental protection bureau showed that the water quality has reached the national level of Grade III, suitable for aquaculture and for swimming.
After a swim in the river, Li said he will continue to urge environmental protection efforts in the city.
China's water quality improved in 2016, but still fell far short of people's expectations, an environment official said earlier this year.
Last year, 67.8 percent of monitored surface water areas were ranked between Grade I and Grade III, indicating relatively good quality, according to Zhang Bo, head of the water environment division under the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Since April 2015, the country has implemented an Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control to reduce pollutants, improve drinking water quality and promote water conservation.
More than 70 percent of the water in the seven major river valleys, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, should have relatively good quality between Grade I and Grade III by 2020, according to the plan.