|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
a. Background/linkage to country/regional strategy: The Qinling Mountains (QM) are located immediately to the south of the capital, Xi'an, of Shaanxi Province (SP). The QM is a temperate forest of global importance. A biologically rich locality, it has a moist temperate climate where many endangered plant & animal species occur. The QM forms the dividing line between south and north PRC and has a major influence on the climate of northern PRC, and the water resources of both the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. Approximately 5 million people live in the QM, many of whom are poor, make their living from agriculture, and live in isolated areas with very limited infrastructure or links to the modern economy. However, there is no overall strategy for sustainable livelihoods or a coordinated approach to monitoring or conserving natural resources. Over 90% of the QM lies within SP, and 70% of the total range (about 40,000 square kms of the total mountain range area of about 57,000 square kms) has been highly degraded through inappropriate farming practices, logging, overuse of natural resources and encroachment over many decades; water runoff to the dry north of the PRC is decreasing as a result.
Despite its degraded condition, the QM offers very significant ecological, cultural and historical opportunities. The QM contains the highest wild panda population density in the PRC, being home to approximately 20% of PRC's total wild pandas. Over 15 animal species have been listed in the national priority protection wildlife list, including Golden Monkey, Golden Takin, Leopard, and Crested Ibis (Japan's national bird and extinct there in the wild). The QM is also typical of the biodiversity conservation challenges faced by the PRC. If successfully developed and promoted, selected sites could both attract high tourist numbers and generate revenues for conserving biodiversity and increasing rural incomes. In 2005 Xi'an received 61 million tourists, of whom about 1 million were from overseas. Over 2 million tourists visited the world famous Terracotta Warriors site, with tourist receipts of $4 billion, and revenues are increasing annually by about 10%. Xi'an hotels and tourist operators offer excellent services, and the proposed main site is a 1-hour drive south on excellent roads and so is highly convenient for tourism.
To address such vital concerns in a structured and comprehensive way, ADB has supported the Government to develop a long-term country programming framework (CPF) for the PRC-Global Environment Facility (GEF) Partnership on Land Degradation. It is an integral part of ADB's Country Program and Strategy (2004-06), addressing the interface between pro-poor economic growth and sustainable environmental management. The CPF covers a 10-year period (2003-2012) and seeks to combat land degradation, reduce poverty, and conserve biodiversity through capacity-building investments and developing viable model investment projects, consistent with GEF's Operational Program 12 on integrated ecosystem management. The proposed project will also greatly assist the PRC in demonstrating the market-based approach to biodiversity conservation; this has significant potential use throughout the country, with importance for the ongoing PRC Biodiversity Partnership.