WWF-HSBC Yangtze River programme

China reviews river management practices and WWF-HSBC approach

In 2002, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) established the five-year "Investing in Nature" Programme, which supports a range of conservation initiatives around the world. The WWF-HSBC Yangtze Programme is one of these initiatives, and Ramsar's Lei Guangchun explains that it is covered by the HSBC's "Freshwater Infrastructure Sector Guideline", which is intended to "ensure that HSBC's involvement in freshwater infrastructure projects is consistent with our long-standing commitment to sustainability". Specifically, the group will not provide financial assistance to projects which could impact adversely upon Ramsar sites, World Heritage sites, or other critical natural habitats, and will not assist with dams that do not conform to the World Commission on Dams Framework. HSBC's activities in this area will be devoted to financing projects "that are operating within the following internationally, regionally or nationally accepted standards", namely UNEP's Dams and Development Project, the Ramsar Convention, the EU Water Framework Directive, the WCD recommendations, and a few others.

In this context, WWF China reports on the Government of the People's Republic of China's support for the WWF-HSBC freshwater initiative.

Chinese decision-makers review the WWF-HSBC freshwater initiative and river management practices

On August 1st , the speech on dykes/dams and their impact made by Mr. Suo Lisheng, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Water Resources, at the China Today Forum, a monthly forum for senior officials, renowned scholars and experts, and entrepreneurs, indicates that the ministry has set out to re-examine and reassess its previous work on river management, especially on dykes and dams.

"Obviously water projects for flood control, farmland irrigation and drainage, water environment, hydropower generation and river transportation provided a guarantee for stable economic and social development, but now the critical problems of water shortage, frequent flooding and a deteriorating water environment urge us to consider the impact of waterworks on water quality, fish migrating routes, and flora and fauna," according to Suo Lisheng.

In his speech on minimizing the loss owing to the irrational construction of dykes and dams, Mr. Lisheng cited and supported the WWF-HSBC freshwater initiative to re-establish the connection between obstructed lakes and the Yangtze River.

The WWF-HSBC freshwater initiative seeks to restore the "Web of life" along the Yangtze River by opening the dykes for the benefit of the lakes' ecosystem and the local communities that depend on the lakes. Since 2002, the project has been supporting the relinking of isolated lakes and introducing fish fry, as well as helping to restore wetland habitats for displaced migratory and endemic birds and fish, thereby reducing water pollution and establishing key protected areas for the region's most endangered species. The project is also introducing sustainable alternative livelihoods, such as ecofisheries, ecotourism and aquatic vegetable growing, for local communities.

The Yangtze River is the world's third longest river, with its basin covering an area three times larger than that of the UK. More than 100 lakes once had natural links with the river's main waters. Such unsustainable practices as land reclamation, dyke building, and overpopulated urban settlements along its waters have greatly disrupted the central Yangtze River's once vibrant, complex network of lakes. The vast area once acted as a natural sponge to soak up floodwaters during the rainy season. However, dyke and dam building along the river has seriously disrupted natural processes across the basin.

In the past two months, the WWF-HSBC freshwater initiative has been instrumental in opening the dyke gates of four isolated lakes along the Yangtze River: Zhangdu Lake, Hong Lake and Tian'e Zhou Oxbow in Hubei Province, and Baidang Lake in Anhui Province.

"The opening of dyke gates seasonally and restoring the natural links of the lakes with the Yangtze River's main waters is only the first step in restoring natural processes that will help heal the ecosystem, and in the next step we aim to further expand these practices along the central Yangtze River to reduce flood risk across the region as well as to benefit the water quality and biodiversity," said Dr. Wang Limin, Manager of the WWF-HSBC Yangtze Programme.

For further information:

Wu Hongyun, Coordinator, WWF China, Wuhan field office, tel. +86 27 82753845, mobile +86 1390-864-0989, email hywu@wwfchina.org

For more information about the WWF-HSBC 'Investing in Nature', see www.wwfchina.org/english/sub_loca.php?loca=19&sub=91

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