The Yellow River Basin is one of People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) most important water sources, supplying water to more than 420 million people and supporting agriculture, hydropower, and industrial production. However, this precious resource is threatened by a range of factors, including population growth, urbanization, and climate change, requiring action to ensure sustainable, safe and resilient water resources management. It is important to understand the challenges facing the Yellow River Basin and the main drivers of water scarcity. For example, rapid urbanization has increased pressure on water resources, and climate change has led to changes in precipitation patterns and increased water variability. At the same time, increasing demand for water for agriculture and industry has led to overexploitation and pollution of water resources, contributing to a decline in water quality and quantity.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting the PRC Government to strengthen the sustainable management of natural capital in the PRC’s second largest river basin. The Yellow River Ecological Corridor (YREC) Program was established in 2020 adopting a comprehensive ecosystem-based management approach for water resources and land management by considering the river basin as an ecological corridor. The program is being implemented with the support from the following PRC Government agencies involved with resource management and economic development of the Yellow River Basin: (i) the Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC); (ii) the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE); (iii) Foreign Economic Cooperation Center, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs; (iv) Ministry of Water Resources (MWR); National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC); (v) National Forest and Grassland Administration; (vi) Nine provinces in the Yellow River basins;(vii) Chinese Academy of Science and other academic institutes; and (viii) private sectors and NGOs.
Balancing economic growth and sustainable development in the Yellow River basin is a challenging task. Against this background, the YREC builds on three key principles: (i) protect the basin’s fragile ecological environment, (ii) address the severe condition of the water resources and natural capital (balancing use and preservation), and (iii) promote high-quality green development and sustainable livelihoods. The YREC includes a program of lending, non-lending, and policy interventions across four main thematic areas, including: (i) natural resources management and biodiversity conservation, (ii) climate-resilient and sustainable smart agriculture, (iii) climate change mitigation and adaptation, and (iv) integrated urban-rural green development.
The recent event during the United Nations Water Conference in New York (23 March 2023) on Resilient Rivers to Healthy Coasts for People and the Planet: An Integrated River Basin Management Approach saw ADB, development partners, and PRC government counterparts, such as the MWR, reaffirm their commitment to the global 2030 water agenda. Guoying Li, Minister of Water Resources, and Woochong Um, Managing Director General of the ADB, framed the session and jointly emphasized the importance of ADB’s technical assistance, continued collaboration on policy dialogue, joint knowledge work to address the pressing water challenges in the PRC and sharing solutions through south-south cooperation in the region with other ADB regional member countries.
YREC Seminar Series objectives
- To provide a platform in which the PRC partners (ministries, administrations, provinces, etc.) socialize and discuss the issues in the Yellow River they jointly will have to solve.
- To get ownership at PRC level of the YREC program.
- To disseminate YREC results, in particular for technical assistance and loan projects.
- For ADB, to learn from the PRC partners about the challenges in the basin.
South-south cooperation among PRC and other ADB regional developing member countries
- To explore opportunities of cooperation, knowledge sharing and ADB financial support in the context of the current ADB-PRC Country Partnership Program (2021-2025).
Objectives of the Henan onsite hybrid seminar (3 days)
The onsite seminar is hosted by ADB and co-hosted by YRCC and MEE, with external participation of sector relevant PRC agencies and international experts. The objectives of this seminar are to:
- Share different institutions technical and policy expertise on effective water management and adaptation practices in the Yellow River Basin and beyond.
- Conduct site visits to assess the basin’s water security issues to discuss tailored solutions.
- Promote South-South cooperation on institutional strengthening to address water security policy reform.
- Explore opportunities to strengthen and expand cooperation between ADB and PRC in the context of the current country partnership program.
Location: Onsite – Henan Province (Zhengzhou city), hybrid (online participation for Day 1 and Day 3)
Join via Zoom: https://adb-org.zoom.us/j/93414545175?pwd=QjJvU21tcS82eEFDTHFyVUFHc0UwZz09
Meeting ID: 934 1454 5175
International examples have demonstrated that a holistic approach to water resources management within an appropriate political, institutional, and regulatory environment can ensure safe, resilient, and sustainable water resources management for all stakeholders in a basin.
With the right approach and continued efforts, it is possible to ensure a future where the Yellow River Basin continues to provide water security to the millions of people who depend on it. This requires strengthening institutional cooperation among various stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, and communities, to ensure safe, resilient, and sustainable water resources management for the basin’s people and its natural resources. This can be achieved through effective policies and strategies that generate institutional momentum, streamline processes, and encourage data sharing, with the support of multilateral financial institutions such as ADB.
To ensure safe, resilient, and sustainable water resources management in the basin, adaptive policies and regulations must be developed within this cooperative environment, including the adoption of innovative water-saving technologies, best practices, and nature-positive investments.
The Yellow River Protection Law, drafted by different line ministries and several departments is a crucial cornerstone to achieve water security across the basin. It covers all county-administrative regions within the seven provinces and two autonomous regions within the catchment area and aims to protect the environment and water resources, prevent water disasters, and promote sustainable development. While the Yellow River Protection Law puts forward important components to achieve safe, resilient, sustainable, and integrated water resources management in the Yellow River Basin, stakeholders continue facing leadership, technical capacity, investment, and coordination gaps. To help overcome these limitations, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Ecology and the Environment have put forward planning instruments for the = development and management of the Yellow River’s water resources. Such plans aim to improve the basin’s management, including water conservation and disaster risk management, significantly through an integrated approach and proper coordination among provincial governments and local agencies by 2030.
Including the hydraulic laboratory downstream of the Yellow River, the Yellow River basin museum, the embankment to protect the river from floods, and Xinshan city along the Yellow River.
Adaptation and resilience play a key role in reducing exposure and vulnerability to climate change. Climate responses and adaptation options, along with their enabling conditions and synergies with mitigation, can contribute to achieving climate resilient development. 7 Use of integrated and multisector solutions help differentiate responses based on climate risks, increases the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation options in multiple sectors, while addressing social inequalities. The PRC’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) drafted the National Strategy for Climate Adaptation (NSCA) 2035. The strategy will strengthen policy coordination, improve governance mechanisms for decision-making processes, advance knowledge, and tools for climate impact analysis risk assessment, and promote adoption of nature-based solutions. Implementing national adaptation targets in the Yellow River basin is listed as a government priority under PRC’s NSCA 2035. Yet, three main fundamental challenges remain unaddressed to achieve this goal: (i) a science-based and comprehensive climate impact analysis to assess climate risks across sectors for the entire basin was not conducted; (ii) a strategic adaptation plan to help achieve national adaptation targets at basin level has not yet been developed; and (iii) lack of adequate knowledge and capacity among agencies and regional stakeholders for assessing climate risks, and identifying and selecting adaptation measures.