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Strengthen Water Conservation and Protection, Promote Green and Sustainable Development
  2017-01-16 10:26  

Strengthen Water Conservation and Protection, Promote Green and Sustainable Development

——Keynote speech at Budapest Water Summit 2016


H.E. Mr. CHEN Lei

Minister of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China

(November 29th, 2016)


Dear Chair,

Distinguished ministers and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me a great pleasure to attend Budapest Water Summit 2016 in this beautiful city and to exchange ideas with you regarding the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. First of all, on behalf of the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China, I would like to express warm congratulations on the convening of the summit and my heartfelt gratitude to the Hungarian Government and other parties concerned.

Water is fundamental to human existence, civilization, and ecology. In today’s world, water shortage, damaged water ecosystem and water pollution, etc. are aggravating and have become the bottlenecks of global sustainable development in the face of population growth, increased resource consumption, and climate change. At present, about one tenth of the world’s population lacks safe drinking water, and sanitation conditions remain to be improved for one third of the population. In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included a dedicated water goal. This demonstrates the important role of water in sustainable development and reflects the common aspiration of the international  community.

China has a special water regime, with significant imbalance between water supply and demand as well as limited water ecological carrying capacity. The Chinese government attaches great importance to water resources management, and strives to promote comprehensive water conservation, rational development, efficient utilization, integrated governance, optimal allocation, effective protection and scientific management of water. After many years of efforts, China’s annual water supply capacity rises to more than 700 billion cubic meters, and the irrigated area reaches 72.06 million hectares, ensuring drinking water safety for a total of 570 million rural residents. The penetration rates of rural clean toilets and urban sewage treatment facilities have reached 74.1% and 90.2% respectively. Especially in the past five years, China’s water use efficiency has increased substantially. The water consumption per unit of USD 10,000 GDP and per unit of USD 10000 industrial added value in 2015 have fallen to 554.51 cubic meters and 353.55 cubic meters. According to comparable prices and exchange rate in 2010, the decreasing rates are 30% and 37% respectively. The effective utilization coefficient of farmland irrigation water has increased from 0.502 to 0.536. Although China uses 6% of the world’s freshwater and owns 9% of the world’s arable land, it has fed 21% of the global population, provided safeguards for the sustained, healthy economic and social development and also made a significant contribution to world development.

At present, China’s economic development witnesses a new normal, and the building of a well-off society in an all-round way has entered the decisive stage. This has set new and higher requirements for water security. The government has put forward the new development concept of “innovation, coordination, green development, openness and sharing” and established the policy of giving priority to water conservation. It explicitly stipulates that by 2020, the total annual water consumption in China will be kept within 670 billion cubic meters, and the water consumption per unit of GDP and industrial added value will be reduced by 23% and 20% respectively comparing to those in 2015. The effective utilization coefficient of farmland irrigation water will rise to above 0.55, and the leakage rate of public water supply pipe network will be controlled under 10%. We are making unremitting efforts to achieve green and low-carbon circular development through sustainable water utilization.

First, we are resolutely implementing the most stringent water resource management system and accelerate the transformation of economic development mode. We stick to the practice that production and urban development are based on availability of water resources, and take carrying capacity of water resources as the constraints of regional development, urban construction and industrial layout. Efforts will be made to improve the “three red lines” indicator system, namely water resource development and utilization control, water use efficiency control, and pollutant load control of water function zones at provincial, municipal and county levels. We fully implement the dual control of total amount and intensity of water consumption, strengthen the monitoring and early warning of carrying capacity of water resources, assessment of water planning and water abstraction permit management. We adopt the most stringent water resources management to spur the economic quality improvement, transformation and upgrading, and align spatial planning, economic structure, development mode and consumption pattern with water conservation.

Second, efforts have been made to implement nationwide water-saving action plan and the development of a water-saving society. The “Water-Saving Action Plan” is adopted to implement ten major water-saving actions including water-saving for better production, higher efficiency, consumption decrease and pollution reduction, so as to comprehensively promote water conservation in such sectors as industry, agriculture and domestic use. We are speeding up the construction of major water conservancy projects, and water-saving renovation projects in large and medium-sized irrigation areas, and developing regional large-scale and efficient water-saving irrigation, promote water-saving technological transformation in water intensive industry and upgrading of public water supply network. We are also increasing the development and utilization of rain-flood water resources and unconventional water resources including seawater, recycled water, mine water, and brackish water, and promoting the water efficiency leading action and outsourcing water-saving management, as well as creating a good social atmosphere in which water is saved and treasured.

Third, we strive to firmly establish the concept of ecological culture and build a harmonious and beautiful China. We embark on the road of ecological priority and green development, speed up the implementation of action plan for water pollution prevention and control, tighten categorized supervision on water function zones, and carry out regional joint prevention and control activities and improve river basin governance. We formulate overall strategy of water conservation, soil and water erosion control, and waterfront shoreline development; implement the interconnection of rivers, lakes and reservoirs and their comprehensive management; and build green ecological corridors. Moreover, we set up the national groundwater monitoring system, tightly control the total utilization of groundwater and the decline of groundwater level, and promote groundwater pollution control. Efforts are rendered to develop sound water ecology, build “sponge cities” where people naturally harvest, filter and purify water, and build beautiful villages with unobstructed rivers, clear water, green river banks and beautiful landscape.

Fourth, we give full play to market, and reform the institutional mechanism for water conservation and protection. Local governments are held responsible for water resources management. Major indicators of water conservation and protection are incorporated into the comprehensive evaluation system of local economic and social development, and supervision and evaluation are further strengthened. We put in place a four-tier “river chief system” at provincial, municipal, county and township levels for river and lake management. Its core is the administrative chief accountability system, and water pollution control and ecological protection and restoration are priorities. Besides, public financial investment and financial credit support are increased, and social capital investment is encouraged in water project construction and water conservation and protection. We fully implement differential pricing scheme for urban residents and the progressive cumulative pricing system for non-resident use of water above the quota, vigorously promote the comprehensive reform of agricultural water prices, set up incentive mechanism for water-saving practice, promote the transfer and transactions of water rights, and accelerate the development of water markets.

Fifth, we adhere to the rule of law and employ advanced technologies in water projects, and vigorously promote the modernization of water management system and capability. Efforts are made to enact sound laws and regulations on water in accordance with the water regime and the national conditions, and develop or revise a host of standards regarding water consumption, pollutant emissions, and environmental quality, etc. Relying on national key scientific and technological plans, we carry out strategic research, technology research and development and know-how promotion regarding water conservation and protection. Efforts are also made to vigorously promote the “Internet+” water management, and speed up the in-depth integration of information technology with water resources monitoring, efficient water-saving irrigation, development of water ecological culture, and public services for water conservancy, in a bid to promote the change from “digital water management” to “smart water management” and drives water management modernization by means of IT-based water management.

Ladies and gentlemen! At present, the world economy is deeply integrated and the development of various countries is closely interrelated. Only by raising the consciousness of a community of shared destiny and carrying out extensive cooperation and joint development can we effectively deal with water challenges and create a win-win situation for global growth. At the G20 Summit held in Hangzhou, China in September this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the common goals and key tasks for global economic governance around the theme of “building an innovative, dynamic, interconnected and inclusive world economy”. This has struck a chord in the international community. At the recently-concluded Fifth Summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang made important proposals on deepening the “16 + 1 cooperation” mechanism. Water is a pivotal element of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Cooperation in water area is a key part of the Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries. To this end, I would like to propose five initiatives for speeding up the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, especially water-related objectives and tasks: First, systematic governance and integrated policy. The international community should fully recognize the importance of water goals in the global sustainable development agenda, strengthen coordination among water-related policy and policies of economic development, climate change adaptation, food security and energy security. Based on national conditions and the levels of development, we shall leverage investment, industry, rule of law, science and technology and other policy measures to jointly address global water problems. Second, governments take the lead with the participation of stakeholders. Governments should incorporate sustainable development objectives into their national development plans, and prioritize water in infrastructure construction and public finance input, tap the potential of financial and capital markets, attract more social capital in the water sector, and fully mobilize the public, enterprises, non-governmental organizations and other social resources to form a powerful alliance for water governance. Third, strengthen monitoring system and track progress. In the light of local conditions and classified guidance, UN agencies and national governments should speed up capacity building regarding monitoring, optimize the monitoring indicator system, improve the information tracking, collection, analysis and reporting system, and keep abreast of the global implementation process. We shall sum up experience and lessons learned, and provide targeted guidance and support for less developed regions to ensure that water-related goals are obtained on time. Fourth, deepen exchange and explore cooperation. We should fully tap the important role of major international organizations, including UN agencies, the World Water Council and Global Water Partnership, etc., and make use of the key water events, such as World Water Fora, Budapest Water Summit, and China-Europe Water Platform, to strengthen high-level visit, policy dialogue, technical exchange, personal training and business cooperation on topics of water conservation, water ecological rehabilitation, water environment protection, water reuse, flood defense, drought prevention and disaster mitigation, and adaptation to climate change, and contribute to the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and EU. Fifth, inclusiveness, mutual learning and win-win cooperation. Countries worldwide should adhere to the concept of openness and sharing, take the road of inclusive, sustainable development. We should consider the interests of each party, together discuss rules, establish mechanisms, take challenges and share outputs. Particularly, we should give more attention to technical support and financial assistance for developing countries, and jointly build a new pattern of global water governance system which is green, cyclic, cost-effective, efficient and safe.

Ladies and gentlemen! It is the common cause of mankind to strengthen water governance, improve water environment and ensure water security. Promoting the implementation of   water-related SDG goals has tied us together. Ministry of Water Resources of China stands ready to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with relevant government agencies and international organizations around the world. Let’s join hands to promote sustainable development and the well-being of all mankind.

Wish the Budapest Water Summit a complete success!