Profile: The Chongqing river runner chasing a green dream
CHONGQING, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Guijun, a 40-year-old jogging fanatic, often goes for long runs along the riverbanks of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, together with other members of his running club.
Over the past five years, Zhang has attracted over 1,000 people to join him on his river jogs, a sharp increase from the initial 47 runners. But Zhang is driven by more than a desire for physical exercise and leisure -- he runs to better protect the city's river environment.
Zhang, a political advisor of Chongqing's Qijiang District and secretary general of a local healthcare industry chamber of commerce, cares deeply about the waterway. Running along the city's major river stretches, he picks up waste and keeps an eye out for any illegal pollution.
"I love jogging along the river, as the breeze ripples the water and puts me at ease," Zhang said, adding that the Qijiang River has seen its water quality improve greatly over the years thanks to their voluntary protection and supervision work.
In June 2020, devastating floods swept the river, leaving its riverbanks heaped with knee-high mud. Zhang rushed to the scene to help with the cleanup, his trousers soaked in sweat and dirt.
"One man's efforts may be puny, but together, we can make a difference," he added.
More and more volunteers have joined Zhang's team to collect trash along the riverbanks and remind visitors to better protect the local ecosystem. The local government has also upgraded the infrastructure and supporting facilities along the river. It is now common to see residents bringing garbage bags with them as they wander beside the river in their spare time.
Earlier this month, Qijiang District appointed 57 local political advisors as its first batch of special river chiefs in charge of publicity, supervision and protection of 19 river stretches in the district.
Zhang applied for the new undertaking at once. "Clean waters reflect people's eagerness for a better life, which defines what political advisors like me should pay attention to," Zhang said.
The new river chiefs need to conduct at least one patrol along the rivers on a monthly basis. They report illegal activities such as the dumping of untreated sewage and industrial waste and the quarrying of sand in river courses.
It is also their duty to popularize environmental protection knowledge among the public and encourage more people to participate in the "green campaign."
Years ago, China initiated a "river chief" system at the provincial, city, county and village levels, with leading officials assuming responsibility for addressing water pollution, including resource protection, waterline management, pollution prevention and control, and ecological restoration.
In 2021, the average surface water quality of the major river stretches in Qijiang District was graded Class II. Notably, the surface water quality of the Qijiang River was greatly improved from pre-2017 levels, when it was classified as Class IV.
Surface water quality in China is divided into five classes, with Class V being the worst and Class I being the best.
Now, the Qijiang River has been enlisted among Chongqing's first batch of "top 10 most beautiful rivers." The district has also seen its area of soil erosion slashed by nearly 70 square km.
"Rivers are just like us human beings. Only by staying healthy can their true beauty shine," said Zhang.