The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a US$380 million loan to help address water scarcity and ecosystem degradation in China’s Yellow River basin. This financing complements over $1.1 billion of China’s own resources and will help improve water use efficiency, water pollution control, and ecosystem management in the river basin area. The new program supports important global public goods, such as biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation, while strengthening the institutional basis for integrated water resource planning and the protection of ecosystems.
The Yellow River basin extends through nine provinces and autonomous regions from the arid and semi-arid areas of northern China to the Bohai Sea, covering an area of 752,443 km2 that includes around 420 million people (roughly 30 percent of the national total) and about 26 percent of China’s GDP (2018 data). The Yellow River provides an important ecological corridor in an otherwise arid landscape, while the basin harbors biodiversity hotspots of global importance, providing critical winter breeding grounds and stop-over sites for migratory birds, and habitat for more than 150 threatened species.
The Yellow River basin has been identified as a national priority for ecological protection, given its fragile ecosystems and scarcity of water. The Yellow River Basin Ecological Protection and Environmental Pollution Control Program will support China’s strategy for the basin, approved in October 2021, and will contribute to core objectives of the national plan around ‘ecological and environmental protection’ and ‘promoting water conservation’.
The new program supports important global public goods, such as biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation
“This program takes our long-standing cooperation in water resource management and ecosystem protection in the Yellow River basin to a new, innovative level” said Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for China, Mongolia and Korea. “By generating better estimates of water availability and building integrated management plans within sustainable water consumption limits, the program will help China reconcile trade-offs over scarce natural resources and realize its vision of a thriving Yellow River.”
The program is expected to be 75 percent funded by the government, mostly at the provincial level, to support the achievement of the targeted results. Basin-level activities will be implemented by the Ministry of Water Resources through the Yellow River Conservancy Commission, with overall coordination and guidance provided by the Department of Regional Economy in the National Development and Reform Commission. Provincial level activities will support ecological protection, water use efficiency, and water pollution control in Henan and Shaanxi, both in the middle reach of the Yellow River, where erosion, ecosystem degradation, and water scarcity are pronounced.