Saving Mongolian Forests with Finnish Expertise

Mongolia's forests are under threat. An ADB project, financed by the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific, is building resilience of forest ecosystems by boosting capacity for forest management.

Boreal forests cover 14.2 million hectares or 9% of Mongolia. With support from ADB, expertise from Finnish partners, and local participation, sustainable forestry is promoted to build the resilience of Mongolia's forests.

Improving the livelihoods of local communities through sustainable forest management would require policy changes. Mongolia is building resilient forests, restoring and conserving forest resources, as well as developing economic opportunities.

Famously known for its deserts and steppes, Mongolia is actually a forest nation too. Boreal forests cover 14.2 million hectares or 9% of this vast country. Compared with tropical forests, boreal forests store twice as much carbon per hectare, much of it below ground. They are the earth’s largest terrestrial carbon sink, a hugely important factor in the fight against climate change.

But Mongolia’s forests are under threat. More than 140,000 hectares of forest are lost every year to fires, insect pests, grazing, and illegal logging. Being one of the coldest countries in the world, Mongolia is already seeing the impacts of climate change, with average temperature increases of more than 2 degrees Celsius, and significant changes to once reliable precipitation patterns. Average annual precipitation in northern Mongolia is around 220 millimetres, less than a quarter of the globally averaged annual precipitation. Drier forests contain large amounts of deadfalls and debris, further increasing the fire risks.

Unsustainable and illegal logging poses another threat. The Government of Mongolia has enacted a variety of laws and policies to curb the loss of forest cover. One of these, the Law on Environmental Protection, was amended in 2005 to allow for the creation of Forest User Groups (FUGs), voluntary organizations of local citizens that are tasked with the appropriate utilization and rehabilitation of local forests in accordance with civil law. The implementation of FUGs has resulted in a significant decrease in illegal logging wherever these groups are active.

Sustainable Forest Management

In 2015, the Mongolian government and ADB signed a letter of agreement for a technical assistance (TA) project to improve sustainable livelihoods for local communities through sustainable forest management. The project, totaling $2.1 million, was financed by grants from the Government of Japan through the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, now Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific. The executing agency was the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, represented by its Forest Policy and Coordination Department.

The project targeted building resilience of boreal forest ecosystems, supporting policies around forest protection while encouraging private enterprises and FUGs to get involved in forest management. “To achieve these goals, the project was designed to boost capacity of governmental forest management line agencies and to strengthen forest product value chains. It was also necessary to improve FUGS’ capacities to managing the forests for which they are responsible,” says ADB Country Director for Mongolia Pavit Ramachandran. “The project also demonstrates technology for wood processing systems.”

In 2015, NIRAS, a multi-disciplinary consulting company with its global headquarters in Denmark, was awarded a contract of $2 million to provide the technical assistance. NIRAS’ Finland office, jointly with their local partner MonConsult LLC., implemented the TA.

Forestry a Finnish Specialty

As one of the most forested countries in Europe, with trees covering two thirds of its area, Finland has a long history of working for a balance between intensive industrial use of forests and sustainability. Until the 19th century, Finnish forests were heavily exploited for building materials and fuel as well as for exports, later for pulp and paper production. This was a concern for Anton Blomqvist, the father of Finnish forestry. Foresightful, he founded its first professional institution to train forest officers in 1862, the Evo College forest school, only two years after the establishment of Finland’s Ministry of Agriculture. In 1907, the Finnish forest management society (Tapio) was founded as the first nongovernment organization to assist with forestry management and the rational use of forest resources.

“We are proud to have played a role in promoting the importance of sustainable forestry and building related capacities in Mongolia,” says NIRAS Regional Director for Asia and Pacific Antti Inkinen. “NIRAS Asia, with head office in Manila, specialises in transferring our global expertise to the many countries NIRAS works in with ADB. In the case of Mongolia and forestry, this international expertise was firmly anchored in Finland, specifically applied in developing transparent fair value chains for forest products and services to generate new income and employment opportunities for the local community while securing protection of the natural environment.”

The project engaged in a variety of activities, including business management training; the integration of global information systems to capture related data in the planning of the sustainable forest management; and forest and non-forest product development. The Bayan Tunkhel Cooperative was created as a pathway for FUGs to derive economic benefit from harvesting forest products, utilizing wood processing technology, and providing biomass for heating.

The project found that improving the livelihoods of local communities through sustainable forest management would require policy changes. These would promote community-based forest management planning, the removal of ineffective timber quotas to allow FUGs to harvest more valuable products under controlled circumstances, and a greater sense of ownership that allows FUG members to derive economic value from their activities.

“The outcome from this TA puts forestry high up on the agenda in Mongolia,” says ADB Principal Environment Specialist Suzanne Robertson. “We see an increased environmental awareness and the role of forests within that, which, given the importance of forests in the fight against climate change is extremely welcome.”

Mongolia’s boreal forests act as ecological security buffers, being a source of food and fuelwood and livelihoods to local communities. By developing methods and tools, along with capacity building and knowledge sharing, the project has enabled FUGs to prepare sustainable forest management plans that restore and conserve forest resources, as well as develop economic opportunities. Continuing to support FUG’s is a good way to ensure the future of Mongolia’s boreal forests.

Providing Long-term Development Support

The ultimate goal of ADB’s support is to help achieve a climate-resilient, sustainable forestry sector which benefits local livelihoods. Achieving this requires a long-term commitment. In 2021, the Government and ADB initiated a follow-up project, the Forest Sector Development Program (2021–2023). The project is being funded by another generous grant ($0.8 million) from the Government of Japan through the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific. The program is in the early stages of implementation and will be reported on in the future.

ADB, Mongolia and Europe 

Since Mongolia joined ADB in 1991, ADB has been Mongolia’s largest multilateral development partner, supporting the country’s transformation to a middle-income, market-based economy. In those 30 years, ADB has committed sovereign loans totalling $3 billion, nonsovereign loans totalling $182.1 million, grants of $335.7 million, and technical assistance worth $187.1 million for Mongolia. The blueprint for ADB’s operations in Mongolia, the Country Partnership Strategy (2021–2024), focuses on fostering inclusive social development and economic opportunity, climate-resilient infrastructure to drive competitiveness and diversification, and resilience for sustainable, green, and climate-conscious development.

ADB’s European Representative Office, based in Frankfurt, Germany, works with companies and governments across ADB’s 17 European member countries to facilitate the application of European expertise in ADB projects in its developing member countries.

This article is reproduced from Asian Development Bank.

Approaches to Eradicate Absolute Poverty in Guangdong Province, the PRC

Scaling Natural Capital Investments in the Yellow River Ecological Corridor

Asia’s Eating Habits are Changing and the Environmental Impact Could be Huge

These charts illustrate the environmental impact of agriculture in Asia and the need to move toward sustainable and healthy diets that are also environmentally friendly and affordable.

The critical role of agriculture to Asia and the Pacific’s development can hardly be overstated. In the 1960s, food supply was a severe problem with most economies in the region struggling to feed their growing population. Many economies depended on food aid, while shortages and speculation prompted food crises in a few others.

The adoption of green revolution technologies in the 1960s increased agriculture productivity and not only allowed the region to meet increasing food demand, but also release labor to contribute towards vibrant manufacturing and services sectors.

In 2018, daily calorie intake per capita in the region, which is now home to more than half of the world’s population, had increased from 1245 kilo calories (kcal) in 1961 to 1914 kcal. Despite this progress, different forms of undernourishment such as stunting and wasting of children persists, even as obesity is rising in many parts of the region.

Today agriculture in the region faces a different kind of food supply challenge. Higher incomes and increasingly urban lifestyles have changed the needs and preferences of consumers. Instead of a diet heavy on traditional staples such as rice and wheat, consumers today prefer a more diverse diet. Per capita consumption of rice has leveled off; while that of fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, as well as meat and seafood is increasing.

Although the consumption of cereals in developing countries in Asia increased between 1961 and 2018, its overall share in the diet decreased. The share for meat and animal products increased from 1% to 4%. This represents a more than six-fold increase in protein intake from animal meat from 1.5 grams to 10 grams per person per day. Still, this is well below the 34.6 grams average in advanced economies outside of the region.

In the PRC daily calorie intake more than doubled between 1961 to 2018, reaching 3205 kcal in 2018. Cereals only make up 46% of the diet, while the share of meat and animal products increased from a mere 3% in 1961 to 21% in 2018. This represents a 20-fold increase in per capita intake from 1.1 grams in 1961 to 19.7 grams in 2018.

To meet these changing food preferences, agriculture in the region will have to reorient from a traditional focus on the production of food staples to high-value crops such as fruit and vegetables, as well as livestock and aquaculture. This will mean a more resource-intensive production as well as rising greenhouse gases. As figure 3 shows, animal-based products have a much larger resource footprint, especially with regard to greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

To reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, it is important to move toward sustainable and healthy diets that are also socially acceptable and economically accessible for all. Some ways to achieve this are to promote mostly plant-based diets, reduce red meat consumption, promote fish obtained from sustainable stocks, and reduce food loss and waste throughout the supply chain.

This blog post is based on data from the recently published Asian Development Outlook Update 2021 Theme ChapterTransforming Agriculture in Asia.

Manisha Pradhananga

Manisha Pradhananga

Economist, Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, ADB

Daryll Naval

Daryll Naval

Research Associate, Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, ADB

This blog is reproduced from Asian Development Blog.

A Holistic Ecosystem-Based Approach to Ecological Protection and Green Development: The Case of Huangshan in the PRC

Expanding Agri-Trade in Central Asia through the Use of Electronic Certificates

How Rural Pensions in the PRC Impact Older Persons’ Well-Being and Their Families

Research indicates that the PRC's rural pension scheme increases financial independence and geographic flexibility in intergeneration families. Photo credit: ADB.

In the People’s Republic of China, a study shows pension income in rural areas improves economic independence and health of older people.


Establishing sustainable social pension systems in low- and middle-income countries is an urgent task as the growth rate of the senior population in these countries substantially exceeds that of high-income countries (Edmonds et al., 2005). Analysis of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) new rural pension scheme, the world’s largest social pension program, offers a robust case study of the impacts of pension benefits on older persons and their extended families in developing countries. In particular, our study examines whether increased income for aging parents relaxes the overall credit constraints for households, especially those in poor rural areas, thereby facilitating more independent living for pensioners and better access to crucial services including medical care.


Like many developing countries, the PRC’s population is aging rapidly. By 2050, more than 25.6% of its population is expected to be over the age of 65. Moreover, stringent family planning policies during the last 3 decades have contributed to a dramatic increase in the ratio of relatively low-income senior dependents, further intensifying the pressure on a shrinking working-age population to take care of their parents. Older rural residents living in less developed regions are particularly disadvantaged. In 2010, the poverty rate for rural people aged 60 and above was as high as 22.3%, compared to 7.8% for the rural population in the PRC as a whole (Cai et al., 2012).

The PRC launched the rural pension scheme in 2009 to alleviate some of these pressures and better provide for the basic needs of aging residents. The program now covers almost all counties with over 400 million people enrolled. Considering its scale and the large disparities between rural and urban areas as well as across regions and age cohorts, this pension scheme provides a unique case study of the heterogeneous impacts of pension income.

In analyzing these effects, three questions were asked:

  • Does more income for aging parents facilitate more independent living and less co-residence with adult children, particularly adult sons?
  • Does pension income facilitate better access to and use of crucial services, such as medical care for seniors?
  • Does pension income change pecuniary and nonpecuniary transfers between older people, their adult children, and their grandchildren?

To answer these questions, we examined two detailed household surveys: from Guizhou province, which is one of the poorest areas of rural PRC, and from the relatively well-off Shandong province. In both cases, we tracked each adult child’s living arrangements and demographic information regardless of whether the adult child is counted as a household member. Using both sets of comparative data allowed us to conduct stronger empirical tests.

Taken together, the research design disentangles the effects of pensions from other age-related factors shaping intergenerational relationships, thus contributing to the growing literature on the specific mechanisms underlying impacts of the pension scheme.

Our findings indicate that the pension scheme significantly reduces intergeneration co-residence, promotes pensioners’ consumption of healthcare services, and weakens (but does not supplant) nonpecuniary and pecuniary transfers across three generations. All of these impacts of the pension scheme exhibit far greater magnitudes in the locality with lower income, Guizhou, than the locality with higher income, Shandong.

In looking at intergeneration co-residence, we observed a perceptible reduction in adult sons’ co-residence with parents around the cut-off age for pension receipt, with a larger and more significant effect for Guizhou than for Shandong. Similarly, there is a more salient decline in co-residence between grandchildren and grandparents for Guizhou than for Shandong. Thus, pension income does appear to relax credit constraints most significantly for the poorer rural area and is associated with purchase of greater living space (and privacy) across three generations.

Moreover, the rural pension scheme appears to reduce some nonpecuniary transfers between senior parents and adult children and grandchildren, such as being assisted by children when ill, and to weaken pecuniary transfers between generations. One interpretation for the finding is that pensioners transfer less money to adult children and grandchildren after household division, especially in Guizhou, and that they instead spend the money on hired services. Another interpretation centered in household division is that separation between older people, their adult children, and grandchildren decreases the level of utility from companionship felt, thereby reducing a grandparent’s monetary investment in a grandchild. It could also be the case that parents’ pensions contribute to adult children’s rising migration rate and off-farm employment, thus increasing children’s economic resources and decreasing the demand for transfers from grandparents. In any case, the introduction of pension incomes appears to increase the economic independence of older people.

In addition to these multi-generation impacts, pension receipt is associated with greater healthcare consumption among pensioners or greater perceived confidence in consuming medical services when needed. In rural PRC, despite universal coverage by basic health insurance schemes, financial difficulties often prevent patients from receiving or continuing expensive medical treatments. Our findings suggest that pension benefits may help to alleviate this problem by promoting confidence in ability to pay for necessary medical services, positively impacting both the health and well-being of aging patients in rural areas and allowing family units the option of investing economic funds previously allocated toward the medical needs of senior parents into alternative investments, such as education, additional job training, or relocation.

Policy Implications

Throughout the developing world, adult children often provide the most important form of support for their aging parents, both through pooling of household public goods in co-resident living arrangements and other nonpecuniary support. Pension payments increase older people’s economic resources, which may promote their economic independence and enable adult children to choose to live in a separate home in the same village or to move further away in pursuit of education or work. Our analysis of the PRC’s pension scheme shows that providing pension income to older persons in rural areas may

  • reduce intergeneration co-residence, thereby creating additional economic and migratory opportunities for adult children and grandchildren;
  • weaken, but not eliminate, the web of nonpecuniary and pecuniary transfers across three generations, increasing the economic independence of older persons and allowing for immediate family to reallocate economic resources toward options, such as schooling and work opportunities; and
  • increase access to medical services among older persons in rural areas, improving their personal health and well-being and reducing the burden of medical expense coverage by extended family.

Our findings help strengthen the rural pension scheme program and thus improve the well-being of older persons and their families across regions in the PRC. They also offer insights into the feasibility of replicating similar schemes in other developing countries that are facing similar demographic challenges.

The complete study is co-authored by Karen Eggleston (Stanford University), Xi Chen (Yale University), and Ang Sun (Central University of Finance and Economics, People’s Republic of China) and is published in the November 2018 issue of The Journal of the Economics of Ageing.


E. Edmonds, K. Mammen, and D.L. Miller. 2005. Rearranging the Family? Income Support and Elderly Living Arrangements in a Low-Income Country.The Journal of Human Resources, 40 (1). pp. 186–207.

F. Cai et al., eds. 2012. The Elderly and Old-age Support in Rural China: Challenges and Prospects. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision.

X. Chen, K. Eggleston, and A. Sun. 2018. The Impact of Social Pensions on Intergenerational Relationships: Comparative Evidence from the People’s Republic of China. Journal of the Economics of Ageing. 12. pp. 225–235.

 Karen Eggleston

Karen Eggleston

Deputy Director, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

Natural Capital Investment Is Key to Rural Recovery and Resilience

Our experience during COVID-19 has demonstrated the resilience of agriculture and its enormous value in driving economic recovery.

The harsh health and economic impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic are being felt across developing Asia. As the region moves toward recovery, agriculture presents a major route to reducing poverty and food insecurity compared to other sectors.

Prior to the pandemic, agriculture accounted for a significant part of the economy for many emerging countries—7.7% in China, 12.7% in Indonesia, 7.3% in Malaysia, 8.8% in the Philippines, 8% in Thailand, and 14% in Vietnam. Since millions of rural migrants lost their jobs in cities and returned to rural homes for their livelihoods, rural development is now becoming vital to post-pandemic recovery. As experiences in Thailand and the Philippines have shown, investments in agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs following a crisis, and enable rural communities to recover.

Productive and sustainable transformation of agri-food systems is a key element in the successful transition from middle- to high-income status. This is always challenging. But as countries push for economic diversification, expand the use of modern technologies, and establish effective management of food supply during this pandemic, many countries in developing Asia are well-equipped to overcome the challenge.

In the past, farmers had few incentives to pursue sustainable agriculture and protect natural assets without incurring significant cost or loss of income. This was because of the disconnection between the retail price of food and the cost of production and distribution reflecting implicit environmental costs.

But now East Asia and developing countries in the Mekong have started introducing natural capital accounting such as gross ecosystem product (GEP) to attach a monetary value to nature, and applying eco-compensation or payments for ecosystems to provide incentives for farmers to change their behavior. These are critical to sustainable transformation of the agricultural value chain, and can be replicated to other regions including central and south Asia.

In February 2021, China unveiled a new government body for the promotion of rural vitalization as the world’s most populous country shifted its policy focus to further enhancing natural capital investment and boosting rural areas. The same week, China’s top leaders outlined priorities and tasks for the next-stage of reform at a key meeting, which stressed efforts to explore a market-based, sustainable way to realize the value of ecological products.

All of these actions are a move in the right direction for a rural recovery, while protecting the environment and natural resources. The wider region could consider how to incorporate similar approaches in their recovery plans.

Looking forward, several opportunities exist to continue the drive toward a more resilient and sustainable recovery in rural Asia.

Agribusiness marketplace. ADB is working with its developing members to establish an agribusiness marketplace on a digital platform. This platform will integrate modern advanced technologies, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing, and blockchain, to digitalize agriculture value chains. This will reinforce food security and strengthen utilization, preservation, and improvement of natural capital. It will also help in solidifying transparency and traceability to improve food safety. At this marketplace, stakeholders of different sizes will have better channels to exchange information, sell products, arrange logistics, obtain financing, participate in training, and acquire third-party services, such as branding, certification, new product design, as well as professional assistance in legal, contracting, accounting and taxation issues.

Sustainable finance. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), including primary producers, dominate the food system. They are typically at a disadvantage when accessing finance, owing to opacity, under-collateralization, high transaction costs and lack of financial skills. Bank credits are the main source of external capital for SMEs. They need better access to alternative financing, such as equity finance, corporate bonds issuance, and mezzanine finance.

Incentive mechanisms. While there is growth in the adoption of eco-compensation or payments for ecosystem services in rural areas, the current incentive structures still encourage unsustainable short-term behaviors that deplete natural capital. This is a complex area requiring a suitable mix of appropriate “carrots, sticks, and narratives” to change the way that markets work (e.g., sustainable financing and payments for ecosystem services), to enact smart policies and regulations, and to change social norms through information disclosure and education.

ADB has established a working group to expand upon experiences in China and the Mekong subregion through a regional natural capital lab. The lab is designed as a living and virtual platform to incubate, accelerate, and expand natural capital investment, which will prioritize the support for greening of the agriculture value chain in developing Asia. The lab will leverage existing accounting tools to quantify the ecosystem service value of green agricultural value chains, strengthen eco-compensation or payments for ecological services to incentivize behavior change among small farmers, and establish a financial facility to convert ecosystem value or assets into the revenue model of agribusiness.

Our experience during COVID-19 has demonstrated the resilience of agriculture and its enormous value in driving economic recovery. The pandemic has also shown the importance of preserving the harmony among natural assets. Combining these two lessons underlines the need to transform agri-food systems so that they operate in a sustainable way. This transformation can be considerably enhanced by the use of digital technology and eco-compensation mechanisms. ADB’s natural capital lab and the associated financing facility would catalyze much-needed investment to achieve this transformation.

Qingfeng Zhang

Qingfeng Zhang

Chief, Rural Development and Food Security (Agriculture) Thematic Group, ADB

This Op-Ed is reproduced from Asian Development Bank.

Restoring a River the Natural Way

Pu’er City used natural materials and processes to rehabilitate the Simao River. Photo Credit: CDIA/Rudini Baoy.

In the People’s Republic of China, rehabilitation of the Simao River took an ecological and green development path and was integrated into city plans.


The Simao River in Pu’er City, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was rehabilitated to prevent flooding in the city, restore the area’s biodiversity, and improve livability for residents.

In 2012, the city government worked with the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) to finalize the design of its rehabilitation project, which aimed to develop Simao River into an attractive landmark and improve its flood protection capacity. Soon after, KfW (German Development Bank) approved an $80-million loan to implement the key components of the project.

In 2018, CDIA development experts returned to Pu’er and saw that the measures implemented by the city, which largely adopted a nature-based approach, resulted in better flood control and more sustainable river management, improved water quality, and restored ecology of the river. Residents were also using green spaces near the river for recreation and social interaction.

Project information

PRC: Flood Control, Environmental Improvement and Water Reclamation Works in Pu’er

Project snapshot

      • Start date: January 2012
      • End date: June 2012
      • Total project cost: $410,000
      • Financing: 
        • KfW: $80-million loan for key components of project
        • CDIA: $410,000 in technical assistance
        • Municipal Government of Pu’er
      • Commissioning agency: Municipal Government of Pu’er


Pu’er City is situated in the southwest of Yunnan Province. It covers a floodplain of about 45,000 square kilometers, framed by green hills and mountains where the famous Pu’er tea is grown. The city’s estimated population is 200,000.

Pu’er developed into a modern urban center in recent years, but increased urbanization brought pressing challenges. It experienced frequent floods that severely affected urban activities and the future development of the city. The foul odor of garbage and sludge from the Simao River further attested to environmental deterioration.


The Simao River traverses the urban area of Pu’er. The 15-km long watercourse acts as a natural drainage channel for the city and serves as a home for wildlife and vegetation along its shores. In previous years, however, the river lost its capacity to provide these environmental benefits.

In 2012, the river had a very low flood risk management capacity that it could only cope with a 5-year flood event or less. Due to the characteristics of the river’s course and riverbeds, it could not effectively drain flood waters, thus putting the city at risk of flooding.

The Simao River was also polluted. Solid waste, sludge, and aquatic plants impeded its normal water flow, and informal settlers occupied some of its riverbanks. Pu’er’s inadequate wastewater management system compounded the problem, as only 22% of the urban wastewater was collected and treated. The rest was discharged directly into the Simao River and its tributaries.

With the river’s poor water quality and surrounding environment, biodiversity could hardly thrive. This was a stark contrast to the rich flora that Yunnan Province is known for.

Pu’er’s residents perceived the Simao River as a heavy burden; they did not see it as an integrated part of their city and did not regard it as an emblematic feature of Pu’er’s natural beauty.


The Pu’er Municipal Government prepared a feasibility study of the Simao River rehabilitation project to develop the watercourse into an attractive landmark and to prepare the city to cope with severe flood events.

Comprehensive project preparation

The city government asked CDIA to review the feasibility study and finalize the preliminary design for the Flood Control, Environmental Improvement, and Water Reclamation Works in Pu’er project.

CDIA and the Pu’er government worked closely for 6 months in 2012 to prepare the project, involving all relevant stakeholders at each critical step of the planning process. They collected information and conducted surveys, analyses, and calculations to provide a strong foundation for the design of the Simao River rehabilitation project.

By the end of CDIA’s intervention, the city was set to pursue the following measures:

  1. Improve the water quality through a series of treatment wetlands at the confluences of Simao River tributaries and storm water channels;
  2. Provide a river layout that can withstand 50-year flood events;
  3. Allow the river water to flow through a combination of free-flowing stream and still water sections;
  4. Provide an open main flood channel with vegetation situated alongside riverbanks; and
  5. Divide project construction into three sections and three contract packages for the entire length of the river.

In December 2012, KfW signed an $80-million loan agreement with the PRC government to implement flood control and channel improvement works for the Simao River.

Use of ecological and green development approach

The city mostly used nature-based solutions recommended by CDIA to achieve a more sustainable river rehabilitation and create a healthy and livable environment for residents. It espoused the use of ecologically sound and diverse measures, natural processes and materials, and it based restoration efforts on the idea of the features being part of the natural environment and not exclusively built structures. It also planned to entirely use native plant materials for revegetation and for reinforcing flood beds and riverbanks.

The adoption of an ecological and green development approach ensures cost effectiveness in terms of construction and maintenance, and it can also recreate a natural river environment that protects against floods and provides natural habitats for biodiversity.

Integration of the project with city development plans

The city government integrated the planned interventions with their master plan and linked the river works with other relevant urban infrastructure projects, such as wastewater management, wetland park development, and urban renewal. This approach enabled the city to pursue a project design adapted to its existing and future development needs.


CDIA visited the city 6 years after it completed its technical assistance and found that the city completed 85% of the project work, including flood control, sewage interception, and river ecology restoration measures recommended in the CDIA study.

Pu’er officials noted that the risk attributed to flooding has been minimized in flood-prone areas after completion of dredging and excavation works along the river. They also expect that the river will be able to withstand a 50-year flood event when the project is completed.

The river’s water quality improved after the city reformed its wastewater management program, and the foul smell coming from the river was eliminated.  There was also a noticeable increase in fish population in the still water sections of the river.

The landscape surrounding the river was rehabilitated, with 50 hectares of greening and restoration efforts along its banks giving residents new spaces for recreation.

The city used natural and indigenous materials and processes during the project and that resulted in low construction and maintenance costs. Pu’er officials are optimistic that an ecological and green development approach will improve biodiversity and promote the sustainable development of the river.

Informal settlers along the river that were exposed to flooding were transferred to relocation sites with better amenities and quality of housing units.  

Finally, the roads and bridges constructed and retrofitted near the river are expected to improve mobility and access to social services for residents.

The project is transforming Simao River into an ecological landmark while reducing flood risks and improving water quality. Photo Credit: CDIA/Rudini Baoy.


Aided by the interventions and the commitment of relevant stakeholders, Pu’er is set to achieve its primary objective of developing the Simao River watercourse into an attractive ecological landmark while eliminating flood risks and improving the water quality of the river.

The integration of the project into the Pu’er City Master Plan paved the way for the coordinated implementation of relevant urban infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, the active participation of city officials and the affected communities in project planning and implementation strengthened their ownership of the project.

The city government linked the various project components with internal and external funding sources necessary to implement the project. It further established a governance structure, headed by the city mayor, to manage and maintain the river and its tributaries after project completion.

Key officials of the Pu’er Municipal Government are optimistic that Pu’er will serve as a model for other cities in the PRC on how to approach the problem of flood management the natural way and how to integrate flood management measures in a more sustainable manner.


Cities Development Initiative for Asia. 2012. Final Report: Flood Control, Environmental Improvement & Water Reclamation Works in Pu’er.

R. Baoy, E. Ringhof, and C. Yiyang. 2018. Pu’er Tracer Study. Tracer Studies on City Interventions. Cities Development Initiative for Asia.

Brian Capati

Brian Capati

Urban Development Specialist, Cities Development Initiative for Asia

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia.

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