ADB, PRC Work to Save Internationally Renowned Wetlands

MANILA, PHILIPPINES –  Two national nature reserves that are part of globally renowned coastal wetlands in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be restored and preserved using a loan of almost $37 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“Jiangsu province has the third largest area of coastal wetlands by province in the country and they provide a refuge for many rare or endangered species including the red crown crane and milu deer,” said Zhang Qingfeng, Lead Water Resources Specialist in ADB’s East Asia Department. “Without urgent action to reverse environmental degradation caused by land reclamation, pollution, and other harmful practices, the wetlands in Yancheng would continue to deteriorate and may disappear altogether.”

Over the past three decades, half of the wildlife habitats in the internationally-recognized ecosystems have vanished, while areas taken up by fishponds and other construction have expanded eight-fold.

The project will rehabilitate thousands of hectares of degraded wetlands, as well as two coastal forest farms, which provide ecological protection to the nature reserves. The restoration process includes clearing natural water canals and land contours to allow river flows to return to dried up areas of wetland―the first time this ‘rehydration’ process has been used on an ADB-assisted project.

Other measures include converting fishponds back to wetlands, controlling the spread of invasive species, building waste management facilities, and introducing sustainable forest management practices.

Eco-compensation program has been designed to encourage the local agricultural and aquacultural farmers to adopt biodiversity- and wetland-friendly farming practices. Eco-compensation could include cash-based incentives, skills training, and extension services on production, certification, marketing and sales of biodiversity-friendly, organic products. Many of the local beneficiaries are small-holder farmers whose income is among the lowest. This pilot program could provide a model for replication in future conservation projects.

The PRC has been working hard to reduce environmental degradation caused by fast-paced development.  It has carried out a host of ecosystem protection projects in recent years, with support from ADB, including Baiyangdian Lake in Hebei province, Jiaoszhou Bay coastal wetlands in Qingdao municipality, and the Sanjiang plain wetlands in Heilongjiang province.

ADB’s loan from ordinary capital resources has a 25-year term and makes up over 48% of the total project cost of almost $76.4 million. The Government of PRC is providing counterpart support of about $39.5 million. The project will run for five years, starting in 2012, with an expected completion date of June 2017.