Major New Year boost for Yangtze river | WWF
Major New Year boost for Yangtze river

Posted on 07 January 2021

WWF welcomes China’s historic Yangtze River Conservation Law
The New Year brings real hope for the restoration of the Yangtze river, following the adoption of the Yangtze River Conservation Law by China’s National People’s Congress.

The historic law, which will officially come into effect on 1 March, will enhance the health of the river, boost biodiversity and underpin sustainable development by promoting multi-party collaboration in integrated river basin management (IRBM).

It will also provide a Chinese model of river protection, management and green sustainable development for the world – and showcases what can be achieved under a New Deal for Nature and People.

“WWF welcomes this historic law, which is China's first macro-scale river basin conservation law and which provided important legal support for the conservation and sustainable development of the Yangtze River," said Lu Lunyan, the country representative of WWF China, which has been working on the Yangtze for over 20 years and which has been instrumental in promoting IRBM, river research and public awareness of the threats to the river.

The Yangtze is the world's 3rd longest river and supports more than 40% of China’s population and GDP. The vast river basin is also home to extraordinary biodiversity, including iconic species such as the Giant panda, snow leopard, Yangtze finless porpoise and Chinese sturgeon, as well as millions of migratory birds.

However, WWF’s recent Living Yangtze Report 2020 graded the overall health of the Yangtze Basin at B- with some sections of the river, particularly its largest lakes, facing even greater challenges and pressures.

The Yangtze River Conservation Law paves the way for measures to improve the river’s scorecard as its regulations cover every relevant administrative area from source to sea, as well as the mountains, streams, forests, farmlands, lakes, grasslands, and humans within the basin. It also covers a wide range of themes, including IRBM, wetland protection and restoration, protection of flagship species, environmental flows, reconnecting rivers and lakes, managing sand mining, protecting drinking water sources, corporate water stewardship and green finance.

"This new law shows the Chinese government's commitment to systematically protecting the Yangtze basin ecosystem, which will benefit all the people, businesses, cities and species that depend on it," said Stuart Orr, director of WWF's global Freshwater Practice."This law – along with the 10 year moratorium on fishing in the river – will provide a breathing space for critically endangered species like the Yangtze finless porpoise and the Chinese sturgeon, which are indicators of the health of the river.”

WWF is committed to conserving the world’s sturgeon and river dolphins through its ambitious global Sturgeon and River Dolphin Rivers initiatives. The Yangtze is key to WWF's work under its Asian Flyways initiative.

“We believe that China's commitment to Green Development along the Yangtze can help to restore the river’s freshwater biodiversity, improve the overall health of rivers and lakes, support sustainable livelihoods – including providing new opportunities for fishers – and drive the green transformation of the basin economy,” added Orr. “The WWF network stands ready to provide further support."

The adoption of this major conservation law kicks off a hugely important year for biodiversity in China and across the world – with all eyes on the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming later this year when countries will agree on a new global framework for Nature.

"China will be a very important leader of global efforts to halt nature loss and the Yangtze River Conservation Law will be one of its most important contributions,” said Lu.

“WWF is honored that some of WWF’s suggestions to strengthen aspects of the law were considered during the consultation process – and we look forward to providing support where needed, including for social participation in ecosystem protection, green transformation and sustainable high-quality development.
Bend on the Yangtze River, China
© Weiyang Dou
Shanghai by night
© Justin Jin / WWF-US
A finless porpoise on the Oxbow Reserve, connected to the Yangtze River
© Justin Jin / WWF-US
Navigation along the Yangtze
© WWF / Michel Gunther
The Yangtze River - the Chinese Eden of biodiversity.
© WWF / Michel Gunther
Sand dredging on Dongting Lake, China, on a waterway connected to the Yangtze River.
© Justin Jin / WWF-US