Less than a week after heavy rains overwhelmed the capital, a campaign to inspect the illegal usage of Beijing's drainage system was launched Tuesday. Only about 20 percent of users have a license from the city's water authority.
The campaign is being conducted jointly by a subsidiary company of the Beijing Drainage Group and the Beijing Water Administration and Law Enforcement Office.
They will divide the city's six downtown districts into 45 sections and dispatch a group of people equipped with GPS, cameras and tools to each section for inspection, the Beijing Times reported.
Garbed in fluorescent uniforms, some 170 professional inspectors have been sent to carry out the 24-hour investigations since Tuesday.
Their main tasks are to suss out what human activities are contributing to inefficient draining, including the illegal covering of drainage outlets and the destruction of drainage facilities.
Deep water caused by last week's downpour paralyzed the city's public transportation systems and called Beijing's drainage systems into question.
However, an anonymous official involved in the campaign told the Global Times that the ongoing inspection was not prompted by the troubles caused by the recent downpour.
"In fact, the campaign was scheduled before the rain. The initiative for the inspection is to serve the Party's anniversary," the official said.
According to the Beijing Water Authority, figures show that about 80 percent of drainage system users actually are using the public infrastructure illegally, allowing polluted water to freely flow into the system, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Wednesday.
"It is difficult for water authorities to manage the operations of public drainage systems if users have not come to get the license," the official explained, adding that if an individual's property has a drainpipe that leads into the system, it is the individual's responsibility to get a license from the water authority.
The investigations into all city drainage system users will cover residential areas, restaurants and hotels, as well as crucial users such as hospitals and scientific laboratories.
Users who are found to be draining without a license will be fined from 10,000 to 30,000 yuan ($1,546 to $4,638), according to a regulation released last year by the government, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.
An employee surnamed Yu who works for a property management company told the Global Times on Wednesday that her company, which looks after a new residential community, already got its drainage license because they had to pay to get their drainpipes and drainage system connected to the city's network.
"But some old buildings may not have the license," she said. In her opinion, the issue has been neglected largely because the government has not taken it seriously and forced organizations to abide by the rules.
"The dumping of polluted water could badly affect a city's drainage system and cause pollution problems," Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
According to Ma, the wastewater from some companies between the urban area and the capital's suburbs cannot meet the standards required to get the license. They dump their wastewater anyway, and the polluted water flows through the drainage systems and into Beijing's rivers.
"Most of the cities in China have placed their construction emphasis in areas that people can see, while neglecting infrastructure construction underground, such as drainage systems," Ma said.