|Chen Honglin (R) takes photos of the Moxi River during her investigation. [Chongqing Daily]|
An environmentally-minded female official from Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality has won praise in recent years for her role in protecting a local river by fighting against illegal sand mining.
The nearby Moxi River is famous as a subsidiary of the Yangtze River. However, the river's natural course was destroyed by illegal sand miners over the past several years.
Chen was determined to close all the plants involved in sand mining because of a photo she saw in 2016 showing a woman carrying oranges, wading across the river to sell them with water up to her' waist.
The scene took place in the cold winter months. Because the river bed had been dug up, farmers could not cross the river like they used to in the past.
Chen was moved by the women's frozen purple lips and frightened eyes. Therefore, she went to investigate immediately on her first day as the head of Hefeng township.
"Scenes of devastation met my eyes everywhere!" Chen recalled.
There were eight sand quarries of different sizes within three kilometers of the riverbank, one for every 300 or 400 meters on average.
After excavating gravel from the channel, sand harvesters grind and excavate the riverbed with a shredder.
Because of years of mining and washing sand, the water in the Moxi River had become turbid and the dust in the air was diffuse. Villagers living by the river were even afraid to open their doors or windows all year round.
Chen pondered for a whole night and finally made up her mind that no matter how hard it was, she would change the present situation of the devastated Moxi River after the investigation.
Chen investigated the eight sand quarries one by one, and found that only four of them could provide sand mining licenses and stone processing certificates, but even those had expired. That is to say, they were illegal.
Chen decided to "destroy" them one by one. She and other village officials spent several months working out the arrangements.
They spread their message in the town every day. They made everyone aware that it was forbidden to remove sand or stone from any area of the town. All the existing sand quarries had to be closed down. besides, a reward of 5,000 to 10,000 yuan would be given to anyone who reported illegal sand mining.
Chongqing comprehensively implemented the system, and Chen became the "river chief" of Hefeng.
Subsequently, Hefeng township issued a notice to the eight sand quarries, ordered them to dismantle their illegal construction within a period of time and restore the original shape of the river.
Some quarries overtly agreed but covertly opposed the action at first by stopping work during the day but re-opening at night.
Therefore, Chen with other officials guarded the construction site in person day and night, to make sure the large machinery was removed and carried away with the quarry.
She also immediately called for the people to carry out the field-leveling work in order to restore the original appearance of the riverbank and ensure the safety of the flood zone, whilst completely cutting off the back road to the illegal sand quarries.
Thanks to the joint efforts of Chen and her colleagues, all eight sand quarries in Hefeng were closed within a few months, and all the machinery, equipment and construction structures were dismantled.
Seeing no prospect of resumption of production, some sand miners began to develop the business of planting oranges, while others obtained legal sand production certificates through bidding.
The muddy waters of the Moxi River have become clear again.
(Source: Chongqing Daily/Translated and edited by Women of China)