The Asian Development Bank (ADB) cohosted a webinar to discuss policy recommendations proposed for the Yangtze River Protection Law (YRPL) that will support ecological protection and river basin management in the Yangtze River Economic Belt (YREB) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Opening the webinar, Director General for ADB’s East Asia Department James P. Lynch said ADB support to the YRPL represented an important pillar in implementing the PRC’s vision of an ecological civilization.
“There is a growing need to take a holistic approach to river basin management,” he said. “The proposed legislative framework for the YRPL is the first to tackle complex environmental challenges with a focus on a specific river basin. The lessons and experiences will serve as a useful model for other river basins in the PRC and the Asia region.
As the country’s largest river basin, the YREB occupies a central position in promoting the PRC’s socio-economic development, as well as the ecological health and security of the basin itself. ADB is supporting a $2 billion flagship program in the YREB that applies a strategic framework approach. ADB is also providing technical assistance (TA) to offer recommendations on the proposed YRPL in response to the National People’s Congress’s calls for submissions from key agencies and consultative bodies.
Mr. Lynch informed the webinar that sustainable management of the basin requires an integrated approach leveraging complementary policy instruments such as natural capital accounting and eco-compensation, together with clear provisions for environmental standards, monitoring capacity, and information disclosure.
Participants also heard that even with significant improvements witnessed in the water quality of rivers, lakes and the ecological environment, the legislative reforms through the YRPL will provide a major shift in approach by providing a mandate on integrated spatial planning as the basis for river basin management activities. It was also noted that the role of public participation will also be critical in achieving green development in the basin.
Recommendations from the TA have been submitted to the National People’s Congress as part of the formal process for the legislation’s preparation. The main recommendations include:
- Strengthen the role of river basin protection institutions, such as the Yangtze River Basin Ecological and Environmental Supervision and Administration Agency, to serve as a central Office of the Yangtze River Basin Coordination Body. The body would assume more responsibility for the protection of the ecology and environment with a unified supervision role for pollution prevention and ecological protection of the basin. This will enable improved coordination, covering environmental assessment, monitoring, data access, and evaluation functions
- Prepare an implementation plan for the protection of the Yangtze River with a regular update every 5 years. This includes enhancing ecological compensation mechanisms or other green incentive funds to support cross-provincial ecological protection activities
- Strengthen land-use and spatial management, including the concept of “red lines” supported by legal provisions aligned with the State Council ecological and environmental authorities’ red line, to implement unified supervision, ecological monitoring, evaluation, and law enforcement
- Further refine the provisions for public participation to recognize citizens and the wider community with the right to have a role in the decision-making process.