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China's efforts on water issues praised

By Minlu Zhang | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-03-24 22:59

Minister of Water Resources Li Guoying speaks at the 2023 United Nations Water Conference in New York on Wednesday. Xie E / Xinhua

On the sidelines of the 2023 United Nations Water Conference, experts praised China's achievements on water management over the past decade, saying that the nation's water policies and solutions could serve as a model for other countries.

"Not only within Asia, but the other parts of the world now are focusing on how China is moving on water resources management," said Yoonjin Kim, director of the Asia-Pacific region and the 10th World Water Forum of the World Water Council.

"We've learned about a lot of different issues that China has already dealt with, and how they're having a grand plan for their own country," Kim said.

Speaking at the plenary session general debate of the conference, Minister of Water Resources Li Guoying said, "China has promoted integrated water supply for urban and rural areas, upgraded the scale of centralized water supply, and enhanced the standard development of small-scale projects in accordance with local conditions."

He also presented four proposals aimed at further sharing China's water management practices.

Those proposals were: first, everyone has the basic right to safe drinking water; second, fully understanding the finiteness and irreplaceability of freshwater resources; third, the right of rivers to survive in nature should be respected and water should be treated as a living entity and there should be a harmonious coexistence between humans and rivers; and fourth, there should be cooperation with UN agencies to provide a platform for governments, international organizations, think tanks, civil society and other stakeholders on water management.

"Minister Li was quite inspirational yesterday … in these four proposals," said Peter Goodwin, the past president of the International Association for Hydraulics Research in Beijing.

Welcoming Li's proposals, Goodwin said, "I certainly hope that those get adopted, particularly the common ethics around clean water and how the management of rivers is propagated throughout the world."

The scale of the research that China has done on the protection of endangered species, particularly the sturgeon — an anadromous fish that is challenged everywhere in the world — "is something we can all learn from", said Goodwin, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The world is now struggling with new nature-based solutions, and China is providing an example for the solution, said Goodwin. "If you look at the Yangtze, the Yellow River, some of the thinking that's going on in the coastal areas, flood plain management restoration … all of these fit within this new thrust to try and work with nature," he said.

"And I'd just like to applaud the efforts of China in funding international collaboration, particularly around innovation and research," Goodwin added.

Marco Arcieri, vice-president of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, said: "I have visited China several times, and I know that there is a huge plan of investment to expand irrigation, especially in the southern part of China, because there is a great need — the food demand is increasing, so the Chinese government has been investing a lot in new infrastructure, in order to have distribution of water in the farms inside territories of China, and to satisfy the food demand and guarantee food security for the people of China."

Jin Hai, director-general of the International Economic and Technical Cooperation and Exchange Center of China's Ministry of Water Resources, said that over the past five years, the Chinese government has invested 290 billion yuan ($42 billion) to build a robust rural water-supply network and ensure drinking water supply to all populations of the country.

"It is a marvelous achievement," Jin said.

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