China: Wetland restoration through developing alternative sources of income for farmers in the Yangtze River Basin (#168)
After the devastating floods in the Yangtze in 1996 and 1998, the Chinese government issued the so-called 32 character policy to counter the floods through 3 specific interventions: a ban on logging and a ban on agriculture on steep slopes and the restoration of wetlands in the floodplain of the Yangtze River. A large amount of reclaimed land is found in Dongting Lake in the Central Yangtze. Donting Lake has shrunk from 6.270 km2 in 1825 to 2600 km2 in 2001 as a result of reclamation and sedimentation. Following the 32-character policy, the Hunan provincial government began a major program of wetland restoration in Dongting Lake, involving the relocation of farmers from the reclaimed land. However, this process was threatened with failure, because of lack of attention to finding alternative incomes for the displaced farmers.
WWF developed four pilot sites to demonstrate the benefits of wetland restoration for biodiversity, and to seek alternative income options for farmers, based on the sustainable use of wetlands, one of them is Xipanshanzhou polder. The project is addressing complex issues, such as changing the attitudes and lifestyles of farmers, and developing new markets for farm products. Farmers participated actively in the development and management of the project. The project resulted in 40% income increase generated, chemicals and pesticides reduced. The polder covers 11 ha and 150 households are involved in the restoration programme. Through the success of the demo-sites, the project achieved a major result for scaling up the work to the entire lake area. Next to this the project has instigated the set up of a state level IRBM taskforce under the China development council. As input to the taskforce and on the basis of the successes in Dongting Lake, the project is currently working with the key stakeholders in Jiangxi to apply IRBM approaches in Poyang Lake basin, a sub basin of the Yangtze River Basin.
- Use participatory planning at the community level but try to involve stakeholder above the field level to influence the policy framework and to embed the field level activities within the policy framework.
- Good field models that are developed in collaborative efforts of key stakeholders provide entrances to discuss other more controversial water management issues.
Importance of case for IWRM
The case emphasizes the importance of developing field level working models for wetland restoration and management to influence decision making for wetland restoration and management at the policy level. The case highlights the magnitude of the collaborative work on the ground with multiple key stakeholders as a way to pave the path for discussions on more controversial water management issues and application of the IWRM on a wider scale. The case shows the importance of including the nature conservation issue in integrated water resource management as a basis for sustainable development in river basins.
Derk Kuiper, Manager International Freshwater Programme