BEIJING, June 22 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature Thursday began reviewing a draft amendment to better prevent water pollution by strengthening government responsibility and supervision.
The draft amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law was submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the start of its bi-monthly session.
The draft, now in its second reading, suggested that the "river chief" system should be promoted at provincial, city, county, and township levels, with leading officials assuming major responsibility in addressing water pollution.
The responsibilities of the river chiefs include water resource protection, waterline management, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration of all rivers and lakes in the region, said the draft.
China first appointed local government officials as river chiefs in 2007 to address a blue algae outbreak in Taihu Lake, Jiangsu Province.
A plan for appointing officials to oversee river pollution management was jointly published by the Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Environmental Protection last December.
The draft also said that city and county-level governments should disclose information about the implementation of water quality improvement plan to the public, setting time limits and making efforts to reach the standard water quality.
Governments above the county-level should build sewage treatment and garbage disposal facilities in rural areas, according to the draft.
It also said that drinking water suppliers who fail to provide standard water to the public will be fined up to 200,000 yuan (about 32,000 U.S. dollars).
Standards should be set on the quality and usage of fertilizers and pesticides, in order to better protect water resources, said the draft.
In addition, the draft amendment suggested that governments at or above the county-level should work with local environment departments to monitor and evaluate the drinking water status and disclose information of the drinking water quality to the public quarterly.
China's environmental protection lags behind its economic status, and decades of breakneck growth have left the country saddled with problems such as contaminated waterways and soil.
To improve the environment, China has set up laws and regulations to strengthen control over the use of land and water resources, and also implement green industrial policies.
The current Water Pollution Prevention Law was enacted in 1984 and has been amended twice in 1996 and 2008.
Also Thursday, lawmakers reviewed the country's first soil pollution prevention and control law to head off rising public concerns over environmental costs of decades of rapid growth.
The draft law, which promised to set up soil pollution prevention funds and conduct a nationwide soil condition census every 10 years, is China's latest attempt to curb worsening soil pollution and rehabilitate the country's vast swathes of contaminated land.
The new law will help improve soil quality, ensure safe agricultural products and public health, and safeguard sustainability in the utilization of soil resources, said Luo Qingquan, deputy head of the NPC's Environment and Resources Protection Committee.